MONDAY, JULY 27, 2020

WNBA dedicates its season to Breonna Taylor:
On Saturday, the WNBA began its deeply challenging new season.

As its new season began, the WNBA did a perfectly decent thing. The league dedicated its new season to an innocent person who lost her life in a bungled "no-knock" raid.

The innocent person was shot and killed as she slept in her own bed in the middle of the night. In yesterday's print editions, the New York Times reported the dedication of the league's new season:
BRASIL (7/26/20): The W.N.B.A. season started with 26 seconds of silence and an empty court.

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor,” Layshia Clarendon
, a New York Liberty guard and member of the new W.N.B.A. Social Justice Council, said at the game’s start. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”

The 2020 season, which is being played in a 22-game “bubble” environment at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is expected to be charged with social justice initiatives alongside a full championship schedule. Symbols and logos declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” were prominent on the court, and players wore jerseys that bore the name of Ms. Taylor.

The opener—pitting young guns against league veterans, first-times and comebacks—ended with a 87-71 Seattle Storm victory over the New York Liberty.


The games will continue to be marked by social justice initiatives;
the league dedicates its 22-game season to Ms. Taylor.

“We’re not just slapping her name on a shirt and saying, ‘Here we go,’” Clarendon said. “We’re being intentional about this and working with her mother.”
That's the way the Times report began and ended.

Brasil never explained the specific reason for the 26 seconds of silence. According to CNN's report, it was meant to represent the fact that Breonna Taylor was just 26 years old when she was shot and killed.

The WNBA has dedicated its season to the memory of Taylor. That's a perfectly decent thing to do.

That said, there's another person who was shot and killed in her own bed during a bungled no-knock raid. Almost surely, the players and officials of the WNBA have never heard about that earlier incident. Across the country, very few people have ever heard that other person's name.

That second person was Rhogena Ann Nicholas. Along with her husband, Dennis Wayne Tuttle, she was shot and killed in a bungled "no-knock" raid in Houston just last year.

(Nicholas was 58 when she was shot and killed.)

In our view, the WNBA did a perfectly decent thing in creating this dedication. On the other hand, a possible problem may conceivably lurk in the fact that its players and officials have almost surely never heard of Nicholas, was also shot and killed in a bungled no-knock raid.

CNN's report on the WNBA action was written by Leah Asmelash. It seems to us that this possible problem may lurk in the opening paragraphs of the CNN report:
ASMELASH (7/25/20): Before the start of its 2020 campaign on Saturday, the WNBA dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name movement, which raises awareness for Black female victims of police violence.

The New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm held a 26-second long moment of silence in honor of Taylor, who was 26 years old when she was killed.

Before the moment of silence, Layshia Clarendon of the Liberty spoke about the league's dedication this season.

"We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home," Clarendon said.

"We are also dedicating this season to Say Her Name Campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women," she added. "Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them."
There's a certain irony lurking in some the statements Asmelash attributed to Clarendon. Imaginably, one can also spot the roots of a possible problem.

The irony involves Clarendon's apparent idea that people march in the streets for white women who are shot and killed in these ways, but for for those who are black.

Let it quickly be said: it's perfectly understandable that Clarendon, along with everyone else, might be inclined to believe that.

The possible problem lies in the idea that the WNBA would dedicated its season to shooting victims who are black, but not to those who are white or Hispanic, or Asian-American or Native American or pretty much anything else.

Opinions will differ was to whether a problem lurks in that approach. We do feel certain that Clarendon is a thoroughly good and decent person. But again, the irony to which we've referred does perhaps obtain:

In fact, thousands of people are marching in the streets in memory of the late Breonna Taylor. In terms of the Say Her Name campaign, Taylor's name is being stated all over the country, as is completely appropriate.

By way of contrast, no one has ever heard Nicholas' name, and no one ever will. And the overall fact of the matter is plain:

On the national level, no one has ever cared about shooting deaths during no-knock raids, no matter who got killed.

(One obvious exception: Fred Hampton, December 1969.)

The irony lurking in this matter calls attention to a certain prevailing disproportion. We discussed that disproportion last week. That current prevailing disproportion works like this:

At the present time, shooting deaths at the hands of police are widely discussed, but only if the person shot and killed is black.

If the person shot and killed is white or Hispanic, no such attention must be or is paid. For this reason, WNBA personnel have heard all about Taylor's death, as they certainly should have. But almost surely, very few of these people have ever heard of Nicholas.

The journalistic trend which drives this disproportion largely dates to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in early 2012. By now, this particular type of disproportionate coverage is so vast as to be almost total.

(As we've noted in the past, we suspect that many people have no idea that police officers ever shoot and kill any "white" people at all. We'd love to see a polling organization conduct a survey on this topic. Almost surely, no org ever will.)

At present, a tremendous disproportion exists in the extent to which these shooting deaths get covered and discussed. Rayshard Brooks is known world-wide, as is completely appropriate. By way of contrast, no one has ever heard of the late Nicholas Bils.

That large disproportion exists! Recently, when Donald J. Trump shocked the world by making an accurate statement, Matt Stieb cited a second type of disproportion in this post for New York magazine.

Stieb noted that a disproportion exists in the number of people of different "races" who get shot and killed by police. With perfect accuracy of a certain type, Stieb turned to this second disproportion as a way of fighting back against Trump's accurate statement.

Trump almost never makes accurate statements! An additional irony may lurk in the way he was quickly assailed for finally having made even one.

At any rate, we'll spend this week discussing these two different disproportions. This will be part of a longer review—a review of the way the mainstream press corps currently covers events in which people are shot and killed by police officers.

According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site
, roughly a thousand such shooting deaths take place each year. In fairness, a certain point should be made:

By most assessments, only some of those shooting deaths are unjustifiable, or illegal, or criminal.

That said, any such death is a serious matter. Any such death is worthy of serious treatment by the press.

Our mainstream press corps rarely performs to that standard on any topic. We expect to continue reviewing press coverage of this important topic over the next several weeks.

The WNBA dedicated its reason to the late Breonna Taylor. There's absolutely zero reason why the league shouldn't have done that.

At the same time, few people in the WNBA have ever heard of Rhogena Nicholas. Is it possible that a type of problem may be lurking there?

Tomorrow: A second disproportion


  1. Dear Bob,

    A very good piece on the Dissent magazine website makes points similar to these.

  2. Black Lives Matter, to be sure. And yet, as Somerby suggests, there is an ever deeper problem with policing -- namely that in a nation where police have to assume every household is armed, every traffic stop can result in a shooting, and indeed where in some states protesters from the right or left can carry in full view automatic weapons, a shoot first, ask questions later policy leads to unnecessary deaths. Yet to suggest such a thing in the current climate runs the risk of being shouted down as the equivalent of saying "All Lives Matter," which is seen as subverting the cause of ending disproportionate violence against blacks. Both things may well be true -- and it also true that police violence is unacceptably high, indeed that violent behavior across the board, backed by all manner of weaponry, is at least part of the continuing problem. We must find a way to affirm Black Lives Matter while at the same time addressing the underlying issues.

    1. Interesting, but one doesn’t get the sense that “police violence is unacceptably high” from TDH.

  3. “The irony involves Clarendon's apparent idea that people march in the streets for white women who are shot and killed in these ways, but for for those who are black.”

    This sentence is mangled and makes no sense.

    Anyway, quick, without looking it up, can you name another black woman killed by police besides Breonna Taylor? Probably not. And that is the point of SayHerName. It began as a critical response to Black Lives Matter, which was accused of focusing only on black men.

    What Clarendon said doesn’t seem ironic.

  4. “The possible problem lies in the idea that the WNBA would dedicated its season to shooting victims who are black, but not to those who are white or Hispanic, or Asian-American or Native American or pretty much anything else.”

    Notice that Somerby never spells out why he thinks this is a problem. He leaves it to the reader to guess at his thinking, which is an exercise in futility.

  5. “The journalistic trend which drives this disproportion largely dates to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in early 2012. By now, this particular type of disproportionate coverage is so vast as to be almost total.”

    BLM has brought these incidents to national prominence. The media is reporting on that. If an activist group wants to take up the cause of white people killed by police, or all people killed by police, and make the media pay attention, then that is up to the citizens. The media in general do not lead protest marches.

    1. The nation doesn't even care about the prevalent white on white crime. Why would they care about the far rarer incidences of police brutality against whites?

  6. “The journalistic trend which drives this disproportion largely dates to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in early 2012. By now, this particular type of disproportionate coverage is so vast as to be almost total.”

    And the journalistic trend in the years 1776-2012 was an almost complete omission of black deaths, black concerns, and black people in the media.

    So 236 years vs 8. Yeah, that’s disproportionate all right.

    And Somerby is pissed. PISSED.

  7. Is there any observance for black females killed by black men?

    1. It is called the Violence Against Women Act. Biden supported it, Republicans are against it and didn't renew it.

  8. Why does Somerby so frequently make these statements of the form: "No one cares about __________"?

    It is patently untrue and implies that you can judge the worth of a cause by how much press attention it receives, which is ridiculous.

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