Conservative media was too quick to jump on the purported blackness of the kids who killed Christopher Lane, the Australian ballplayer shot in the back in Oklahoma. Rush Limbaugh insisted that the shooting was “Trayvon Martin in reverse.” “Knowing the answer,” Glenn Beck asked rhetorically whether mainstream liberal media bias was the reason for the lack of coverage of the race angle in the Lane murder. When it comes to black on white crime, he assured us, “It doesn’t fit the American news agenda.”
Both Rush and Glenn are correct that a Not So Silent majority of Big Media leans left. The mainstream seems sometimes to recognize no causal factor for black on white crime but income inequality and slavery. In every newsroom I’ve worked, save Fox, the instinct is that the traditional Civil Rights-era narrative persists; black are vulnerable to predatory whites and must be protected. This feeling prevails among reporters and commentators, just as it does more understandably on college campuses.
When there is a relatively rare example of racially-motivated white on black crime, as Trayvon Martin initially appeared, a highly evolved, well-oiled civil rights machine is engaged.
- Geraldo Rivera
The new and old left pine for the more straightforward epoch when minorities, especially blacks, were victims whether at the hand of Simon Legree in Uncle Tom’s day or George Zimmerman in ours. The old and new right rejects that victim narrative and points to the deterioration of the black family since the Great Society got them addicted to government entitlements, baggy pants and the abdication of personal responsibility.
In real life, African-Americans (and Latinos) are undeniably on the short end of the stick by every social-economic indicator: income, education, longevity, home ownership, etc. The unequal distribution of wealth, health and opportunity cannot seriously be argued. But while there is ample evidence of blacks especially being exploited by landlords and payday money-lenders and such, there is no evidence that they continue to be victimized by ordinary white criminals. Racially profiled by cops (and neighborhood watch captains)? Yes. Disproportionately punished by a biased criminal justice system? Yes. Denied access to services and memberships and residences? Yes. Victimized by ordinary white criminals? Not often.
When there is a relatively rare example of racially-motivated white on black crime, as Trayvon Martin initially appeared, a highly evolved, well-oiled civil rights machine is engaged. And my friends the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson are quick to ride the engine of sympathetic news coverage. In these campaigns, the leaders avoid the reality that, in terms of ordinary crime – murder, assault, robbery, rape and so forth – more whites are victimized by blacks than the other way around.
Conservatives argue with justification that, like black on black crime, black on white crime is not covered with the same passion as the media displayed in Trayvon.
The most egregious current example is the Florida bus beating of the 13-year old white kid by three black 15-year olds. The race of the assailants went generally unremarked until the viral video showing the black kids pounding and kicking the white kid made it a talking point on conservative talk radio. But ideology aside, how could you possibly report that story without mentioning the race of the victim and the perpetrators? Can you imagine what the narrative would have been if three white bullies had brutally beaten a black kid under the same circumstances. It would have been the biggest story in the nation.
Hyper-vigilant to expose liberal hypocrisy in the post-Trayvon era, the right also seized on the Brunswick Georgia slaying of a white 13-month old toddler by two black teenage robbers allegedly angry the mother of the child could not or would not comply with their larcenous demands. That trial has just begun. Like the bus beating, it is not commanding the attention or outrage among liberals that Trayvon’s death did.
Why is the race of the participants as relevant in the bus and the Brunswick cases as it was in the Trayvon case? It is relevant because the public deserves the material facts concerning all crimes that cross the threshold of general public interest. Indeed, until the Society for Professional Journalists, in a burst of political correctness several years ago, misguidedly decreed that the race of criminals was almost never relevant, describing what criminals looked like has always part of crime reporting. Plus, given the video evidence, this bus beating certainly looked like a hate crime. The fact law enforcement ultimately decided the young black assailants were motivated by revenge and not by race does not diminish the journalistic requirement that all material facts, including race, should be initially reported, if only to be discounted. Relevance is determined after investigation, not before, and not by editors or reporters deciding for the public which facts are important and which are not.
The latest installment in this battle over race and crime reporting between liberal and conservative commentators is the infuriatingly senseless murder of 22-year-old Christopher Lane, the Australian jogger shot in the back by the three thugs in Duncan Oklahoma.
Pick your conservative and almost to a man or woman, before all the facts were known and despite racially ambiguous mug shots, they seized on the incorrect narrative that three black kids wantonly killed a white man and the liberals were failing to give the crime adequate attention.
We later learned that the trio consisted of one black kid, 15-year old James Edwards; one white, the getaway driver 17-year old Michael Jones, and the alleged shooter, 16-year old Chancey Luna, who is mixed white and black.
Christopher Lane’s murder is outrageous on many levels, but principally because of the banality of the alleged killers’ motive; one of the punks said they did it because they needed something to do. Point to the disintegration of the American family particularly the urban American family to find motive. Values are wobbly or non-existent, parents are absent or preoccupied, kids are perverted by video and music and movies that extol all the wrong virtues.
This case was about a lot of things, but as reporters discovered, least of all about race.
Geraldo Rivera is currently host of "Geraldo at Large" on Fox News Channel (FNC), which is also nationally syndicated by Twentieth Television. Rivera recently celebrated 40 years in journalism.