The New York Times has compiled a timeline on their website to document police misconduct, brutality, and shootings. The timeline’s daunting 6,951 articles provide a glimpse into the workings of the complex institution of oppression that is law enforcement in the United States.

 

What is perhaps even more complex than law enforcement, though, is the media’s coverage of it. In covering issues with law enforcement, biases and preconceptions are made apparent.

 

In covering the Michael Brown shooting death, John Eligon of the New York Times described Brown as “no angel.” Such language eschews blame from Brown’s death and suggests justification for the killing of an unarmed teenager.

 

Two children stand on the street near National Guard soldiers

After the arrest of six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, the curfew has been lifted in Baltimore and the National Guard is set to depart. (newsweek.com)

The media’s tendency to harp on facts about police brutality strays from the heart of the issue: systemic, institutionalized racial issues in the United States.

 

In an article for the Guardian, Roy Greenslade points out two issues with the media’s neglecting to embrace and openly discuss racial issues.

 

First, a Media Matters for America analysis revealed that New York City television stations disproportionately cover African-American crimes. Such coverage feeds into and creates unfair stereotypes of African-Americans.

 

Second, Greenslade points to an article for the Huffington Post in which Nick Wing writes, “media treatment of black victims is often harsher than it is of whites suspected of crimes, including murder.”

 

Indeed, the media tends to create narratives of black victims that focus on the negative aspects of their lives, while focusing on the positive aspects for white victims. This creates myths of “the deserving black” and the “innocent white in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

 

In Baltimore, unfair media coverage persists with the coverage of Freddie Gray’s death.

 

In a recent show, John Oliver of  “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” criticized the United States’ racial media bias. He pointed out that a black Baltimore protester who smashed car windows had a bail set at $500,000. Conversely, Robert Durst had a bail set at $300,000 for murder.

 

At all levels of law enforcement, it appears as if white people are treated more fairly and often give the benefit of the doubt.

 

In an article for the Root, Rashad Robinson writes, “violence is never the preferred reaction. But responsible journalism doesn’t simply focus on the results of years of oppression — a community that finally reaches its breaking point—but on the factors that led to the break.”

 

Regardless of your opinion of the use of violence in some Baltimore protests, the fact is that the media shouldn’t be focusing on the violence, itself. This neglects to report of the cause of the violence and the roots of it. This lies to the public and hides the mostly peaceful protests in Baltimore to present the city as “thuggish” and destructive.

 

The media have reported on police brutality in an unprofessional and unethical way. The media has fed misconceptions about black people in the United States and reinforces the kind of thinking that gets black people shot in the first place.

 

What do you think about the media’s relationship with institutionalized racism? Do you think that they have enough power to change how we think about race in the United States? Share your thoughts below in the comments or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness