America's fixation on the killing of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is unusual in many ways, and chief among them is the fact that Martin isn't a "young white girl," says Evan Shapiro at The Huffington Post. When a young white female is killed or goes missing in the U.S., odds are good that Nancy Grace will dedicates weeks of her TV show to the case, and "these girls, their parents and everyone associated with them gets a magazine cover, or two, or three." Why is it, then, that when a black youth like Trayvon gets killed — and a disproportionate number of homicide victims are young black males — "very few people outside their family hear about it"? Here, four theories:
1. The media is run by white people
Blacks are under-represented in TV, radio, and newspaper newsrooms, says Shapiro at The Huffington Post, but it's "not the rank and file who determine which stories are covered and what America deems as 'newsworthy.'" Editors and directors make those calls, and minorities are "stunningly" absent at the management level. "I am not saying there is overt or purposeful bias in America's newsrooms," just that the lack of minorities at the top "creates an institutional lack of empathy for minority victims of violent crime."
2. Many people don't care about black-on-black violence
The liberal media does report on black shooting victims, when their murders adhere to the "story line that blacks remain under siege by a racist white power structure," says Heather Mac Donald at National Review. From Amadou Diallo to Sean Bell, "the only black victims who interest the race industry and its mainstream media handmaidens are blacks who have been killed by 'white' civilians, including honorary whites like Martin's killer, George Zimmerman," or by cops. Such cases are rare, however — while common black-on-black violence doesn't appeal, because the victims are typically "gangbangers" who "just as easily [could] have been the perpetrator the next day."
3. There are simply too many black shooting victims
"The wanton slaying of young black people, usually as a result of black-on-black homicide," is an outrage, says Barb Shelly in The Kansas City Star. But, sadly, so many good African American kids are gunned down for being in the wrong place at the wrong time that we have become inured to it, and ignore individual cases.
4. The problem is bigger than gun violence
Homicide is only one of the "murderous forces" affecting black youth, says Juan Williams in The Wall Street Journal. The dropout rate for black teenage boys is a shocking 50 percent — an educational failure that is "often a jail sentence or even a death sentence." Twenty-two percent of blacks live in poverty and "a shocking 72 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers." To really change things, we have to start paying attention not only to black-on-black violence, but to the "larger problems facing black America," too.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
- The lessons of Japan's latest recession
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
Subscribe to the Week