Media showed double standard in Ferguson
by Melvyn L Fein
September 01, 2014 04:00 AM | 15300 views | 17 17 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let us do a thought experiment. Suppose a black police officer shot an unarmed 18-year-old white male. We do not know the circumstances, but the victim was almost twice the size of the cop.

Can you imagine that the surrounding white community — any white community — would erupt in the sort of violence we witnessed in Ferguson, Mo.? There was a time, less than a century ago, when riots swept through white neighborhoods and blacks were lynched for petty offences. But now?

Today, most Caucasians are more sophisticated. They are better educated and have developed more dependable self-controls than then. Thus, were looting to break out in a town where they are in the majority, we would be scandalized.

Why wasn’t this the case in Ferguson? Why has the media coverage been so constrained? The answer, I believe, is closet racism; racism that exists, but is not acknowledged.

No, I am not talking about white racism, although it has not completely disappeared. Nor am I talking about black racism, which has become more virulent than its white counterpart. Rather, I am referring to media racism.

Blacks are understandably suspicious of whites. Even Attorney General Eric Holder gave a nod to their sensitivities. Accordingly, African-Americans sometimes see racism where it is absent.

But the media is another matter. How can reporters have been so “even-handed” as to portray the police the same way they did vandals and fire-bombers? Why were cops wearing protective gear accused of fanning the flames of distrust merely because of how they were outfitted?

Many years ago, when I was working for a newspaper in northern New Jersey, I was asked to cover the first Earth Day at Stevens Tech. Once I arrived on the scene, it was apparent nothing was going on. Relatively few students were milling around talking among themselves. That was all.

After I made my presence known, however, things were different. The “activists” suddenly sprang to their feet and began walking around. They also started chanting. In other words, this was a performance put on for my benefit. The objective was to garner media attention.

Does anyone imagine that the Ferguson demonstrations would have lasted as long as they did if they had not attracted sympathetic notice? Would there have been a raucous party in the streets if the marchers were not intent on obtaining their 15 minutes of fame?

To some degree, the media coverage made sense. The public has an insatiable appetite for scandalous details and the press and TV are in the business of attracting eyeballs. But why the nature of the coverage?

Reporters are clearly obsessed with a need to downplay black misconduct. Apparently, the worst thing that can happen is someone might label them racist. Accordingly, they bend over backward to avoid saying negative things about blacks.

Think about this: A black thug — a young man with a criminal record — declares the police officer in question reached out to grab Michael Brown by the throat and drag him into his vehicle. How is this credible? How could a cop, or would a cop, do this to a person twice his size?

And how did the rumor that Brown was shot in the back survive when multiple autopsies showed it was untrue? After all, it came from the same felon.

The media credulity that glosses over these absurdities owes to nothing less than racism. Members of the press do not hold African-Americans to the same standards they apply to others. Rather, they excuse behavior they would never tolerate elsewhere.

Why? Evidently because they do not believe blacks have the same ability to exercise self-control as other Americans. Yet this is racism! In an attempt to protect blacks, journalists assume they are inferior. How ironic is that?

We will never overcome racism in this country until we are honest about race. To this extent, Holder was correct when he said whites are cowards when it comes to these matters.

Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D. is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.
Comments
(17)
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Richard J.
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September 01, 2014
1. So.. some sixty odd years ago we could imagine a white KKK going around lynching blacks if there was a black-on-white incident, but since we can't do that now, whites are saints compared to blacks? I don't see any blacks going around lynching whites during this protest so your comparison seems lacking. As for white looting if say.. after a rural county was flooded or hit by a tornado? Yeah I could imagine that and I wouldn't be shocked.

2. I think if your co-worker walked into your office wearing a hazmat suit and justified it because of your smell, you could accuse them of fanning the flames of distrust simply by how they're outfitted. You act like the police were merely wearing a different necktie.

3. Cute anecdote. Do you often generalize a single experience in new jersey to a protest in ferguson? Because they must be the same right?

4. The allegation is that Brown was shot at while running away, then turned around and put his hands up after the shots missed, and was shot in the front.

But good try there, sherlock holmes.
Daioni
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September 02, 2014
Ralph Weems, beat into a coma by a group of black men screaming racial explicatives "upset over Michael Brown". Echoes a case where a 13 year old white kid was doused in gasoline and set alight by 2 black teens "Upset ovet Martin vs Zimmerman". Yeah, blacks really aren't lynching anyone. Blacks produce a disproportionate amount of crime compared to the majority(Which is only the majority because the media doesn't seperate 'whites' into their respective cultures), which reflects in the crime demographic that police are trained to respond to. Blacks are seen as more suspicious because of this, but rather then work to reduce crime in their communities, they point fingers and blame it all on whites, don't vote then blame whites for not having people they want in public office, and pass down their hatred of whites to each generation to perpetuate mistrust and push kids to believe that they are never going to be treated fairly so they may as well rebel against everything, all the while calling any black person who do succeed, 'uncle toms'. Seriously, blacks are every bit as guilty of perpetuating racism through their actions as anything they claim against whites.
thisyrs shares
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September 02, 2014
Ridiculous rebuttal!!!

I had to put on a hazmat suit to finish reading it.

Prof. Fein is correct in that people clearly act differently or more intensely as soon as they see the cameras. If you deny that or fil to understand it, then I can understand why you responded tha way you did.
Jamal Crawford
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September 01, 2014
Wow, powerful statements that sting because they are true. If only there were more black voices to join yours on this topic. Unfortunately, there is no money in true racial peace; and there will never be media coverage of the "nothing" that occurs when there is racial peace.
Six Bullets
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September 01, 2014
Fein should cite a source claiming Brown had a record.

He can't. There is no evidence he had a record.

anonymous
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September 02, 2014
You do not know either. It has been ALLEGED that he has a juvenile record. For Pete's sake, cvan't you wait for the Grand Jury report?
commente1
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September 01, 2014
You sir are an ignorant fool. Although your view is not surprising coming from a middle aged white man. Black or white, felon or not, media or not, the universal sign for I give up is "Hands Up". you are correct in your assessment that whites would not have rioted in the streets because they know that inherently the due process of law works for them. the black officer in your scenario would have been suspended without pay and an investigation would have been done. Proving that excessive force was used to bring down an

unarmed man. And the officer black or white should face charges because a violation of their civil rights. I think you are purposely trying to bring the angle of the media coverage to color your own racist thinking. "Blacks are given a pass in this country" Really? I suggest taking another look in the mirror and seeing who YOU really are.
anonymous
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September 02, 2014
You do not know the facts and you judge. So eager to show the world how understanding you are of what happened. You, sir or Madam are a true racist. You are biased against white people and blue people (police). Ever ready, ever eager to rationalize the bad behavior of others.

I suspect you get your news from John Stewart.
Ben Twomey
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September 02, 2014
Yeah, what is wrong with Fein? Didn't he read about all the white folks rioting, looting and burning in Salt Lake City, after a black police officer shot and unarmed 20 yeard old white man, on Auguts 11th?

Come to think of it, I don't remember reading about any of that either.

I wonder if that is where he got his information.
Gary Murphy
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September 01, 2014
"Can you imagine that the surrounding white community — any white community — would erupt in the sort of violence we witnessed in Ferguson, Mo.?"

I think the aspect that most white people fail to realize is what it feels like to be marginalized by society on an almost daily basis. That creates a lot of frustration that sometimes ends explosively.

anonymous
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September 02, 2014
" what it feels like to be marginalized by society on an almost daily basis."

So, that excuses the behavior?

alanps
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September 01, 2014
After reading your poorly researched and offensive 'article' it is clear that racism is indeed alive and well. The attempt to couch your prejudices in journalistic terms is pretty shallow - and statements like "Today, most Caucasians are more sophisticated..." (Than blacks) reveals the ugly head of your bigotry. You later refer to a witness as a "black thug".....

Tellingly other than your baseless assertion that whites are more sophisticated and exercise more self control than blacks - you make no reference whatsoever to the mass of police/justice/academic studies and statistics that very clearly document overwhelming the issues of bias toward our black and hispanic population.

In every 'sensational' crime there are multiple variant and often contradictory accounts of what happened. It's an issue that the justice system has faced from the start. In the US we also have the issue that both alleged victims, prosecutors, defenders and law authorities - and of course the media, feel quite free to give their own multiple opinions in real time. Often in the complete absence of a charge being made - even less an actual case being heard and pursued.

Despite your best efforts here - the hyperbole that came out of this deadly incident did not just come from 'blacks' - it came from all sides and fueled an already turbulent and incendiary situation in the town.

You can keep your view of racial superiority to yourself and your fellow un American bigots.

For as a true American I will hold to the "..truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
anonymous
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September 02, 2014
You are a self-styled champion of the people, champion of the underdog. You are also wrong about the article, and about the author. The problem is, you can,t handle the truth!
S. Glass
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September 01, 2014
More voices like this one, please. That's two: This man and Bill Cosby.
avlisk
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September 01, 2014
A lot of us gave up on the Mainstream Media years ago because of their biases and agendas along with the Network-like slide into infotainment instead of news. They are little more than mouth-pieces for corrupt government and Hollywood hypocrisy. Factor in the anti-American attacks on our civil rights they perpetuate and the only place for actual news and information is on the web. Yes, I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more.
Curly4
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September 01, 2014
There is an example of what you ask. About the same time as Ferguson there was an incident in one of the western states where a black police officer did shoot and kill a white youth. I don't remember the town because it was not memorable there was no riots. No riots, not looting, no demonstrators just a white youth killed by a black cop and the cop having to file an incidence report. That is all!
Marty12345
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September 01, 2014
Excellent analysis. You wrote it just the way it is. I wish more people could see this article.
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