Millions of people in this country are still relying solely on the mainstream media for their information. Wether it be, USA Today, the New York Times, or ABC News, people have a tendency to flock to the “respected” names in news to read up on what’s happening in our country. For the “big” stories, those news outlets do not disappoint, inundating us with so much information it is almost overwhelming.
For example, on June 7, 1998 James Byrd Jr. was hitchhiking in Jasper, Texas when John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer Jr. and Shawn Berry spotted him. The three white men chained Byrd, who is African American, to the back of their pickup and dragged him for miles. When Byrd’s decapitated body was found the next morning, nationwide outrage ensued and the media did their best to keep the public abreast to what was going on in Jasper. In the 5 months after Byrd’s murder, the NY Times ran 31 stories mentioning Byrd’s name, while USA Today ran 23. Truly an excellent job of reporting.
Now the question has arisen though, are all crimes created equal? If you were to do a search at the New York Times for the name Channon Christian or Christopher Newsom, you would return 0 results. The reason this is relevant is because Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were a young white couple (aged 21 and 23 respectively), who were brutally raped and murdered by 4 black men back in January.
The crime started as a carjacking, then escalated to much worse. According to the grand jury presentment Christian was raped vaginally, orally, and anally, and Newsom was raped anally. Within a few hours, Newsom was shot, his body wrapped in bedding, set afire and dumped alongside nearby railroad tracks. Christian remained alive for several more hours. She was raped and strangled, and her body was discarded in a trashcan.
Kidnapping, sexual assault, murder, 46 charges in total listed in the 24 page indictment, and not so much as a paragraph from the New York Times or USA Today. This has led to plenty of speculation from conservatives as to the media’s selection of what is ‘newsworthy’. Michelle Malkin had this to say:
“This case — an attractive white couple murdered by five black thugs — doesn’t fit any political agenda,” she said. “It’s not a useful crime. Reverse the races and just imagine how the national media would cover the story of a young black couple murdered by five white assailants.”
When one thinks back to the Duke rape case and the national attention it received, it is easy to see why Michelle Malkin and others would think these things. In the Duke case it was affluent white males who were accused of raping an African American stripper… just rape however, no brutalization, no murder, no dismemberment of a body. The story was plastered on the front page of every major newspaper for weeks before it was learned the charges were completely fabricated.
Conservatives who have written about this have drawn the ire of those who do not believe murders of Christian and Newsom deserve national media attention. Recently a columnist names Leonard Pitts Jr. vocalized his opinion in an article titled Lunatic fringe focuses on ‘oppressed’ white people.
Among other things he says:
“It always amazes me when white people put on the victim hat. As in victim of racial oppression. By any measure — health, education, economics, employment — white Americans enjoy a superior standard of living. If that’s racial oppression, sign me up.”
“Truth is, media ignore horrific crimes all the time. Space is limited and growing more so. Which means the story that catches fire usually has some element beyond gruesomeness to sell it. In the Duke case, it was class, privilege, sex AND race that did it.”
“…let me add that I am likewise unkindly disposed toward the crackpots, incendiaries and flat-out racists who have chosen this tragedy upon which to take an obscene and ludicrous stand. I have four words for them and any other white Americans who feel themselves similarly victimized: Cry me a river.”
The author in his attempt to explain why this story did not receive national media coverage unwittingly proves the point of the conservatives. By arguing whites enjoy a “superior standard of living” and therefore cannot wear the ‘victim hat’, the author is showing his contempt for white America. If the individuals who committed this crime share his contempt for white America, then this could be considered a hate crime.
He is right in one respect however, space is limited and the media cannot report on every story, and every crime across the country, even those which cross the racial barrier. According to a Department of Justices report, Homicide by race and offender of victim, for black offenders with white victims, the percentage of all homicides was 8.5 in 2004 while white offenders with black victims, the percentage of all homicides was only 3.5 percent in the same year.
For the record, unless new evidence is presented which would prove otherwise, I do not feel this case should be prosecuted as a hate crime. I do feel however, because of the viciousness of the crime, more newspapers should have picked it up, if only to run 1 story.
The fact remains that although black on white homicide occurs at more than double the rate of white on black homicide, the latter is more likely to receive national press. To Leonard J. Pitts Jr., I truly wish to cry you a river. Not because I feel “victimized” or “oppressed”, but because you do. Only in America can a nationally syndicated columnist, who has won the Pulitzer Prize claim oppression.