Monday, August 25, 2014

Every. Time.

UPDATED. SEE BELOW.

Same story, different dead black person. Come on, New York Times.

Yep, they've published an article all about all the very bad things Mike Brown did before he was murdered by a racist cop. ON THE DAY OF HIS FUNERAL.

They literally used the words "was no angel." UGH.

You can see the full article, using Do Not Link so the NYT won't get any hits from me, here.

Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

You know who's no angel? Me. I've dabbled in drugs and alcohol. I've taken to producing writings that are by turns contemplative and vulgar. I've gotten into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.

I haven't, and will never be, shot by a cop while surrendering, only to then be smeared by a nationally-read news outlet that publishes false facts about a robbery that didn't happen and suggesting that it's somehow my fault that my community had problems. None of my past misdeeds would ever be published in an article about my murder. You can tell by the way that white mass murderers get super gentle articles published about them, bemoaning the struggles they went through and going out of their way to suggest all kinds of mental illnesses and cognitive deviations from the norm they can think of to excuse their behavior, whether accurate or not.

I bit a kid in elementary school. Gonna publish that tidbit on the day of my funeral?

There's more. What are these bizarre details?

"In the ninth grade at McCluer High School in Florissant, Mr. Brown was accused of stealing an iPod."

Why is this included?

"As a boy, Michael was a handful ... When they left out pens and pencils, he would use them to write on the wall."

What kid didn't?

"One time, his mother gave him her A.T.M. card so he could buy shoes, said Mr. Brown's friend Brandon Lewis. Mr. Brown bought himself a PlayStation console."

Wow, he must be the only kid who ever did that. And I'm sure he was old enough at the time to be called "Mr."

It goes on and on. Sometimes he talked back. He got into one fight (I've been in more fights than that). He hinted at frustration with his family. He was not the best student.

All of these details are published without comment. No "but he didn't deserve to die for this." There were positive things about him in the article. But a lot of what's said is framed in the negative. "He didn't have a criminal record." "He wasn't in a gang." Not "he was a law-abiding, responsible member of the community."

Now, the author, John Eligon, is a black man. It would be a lot worse if it was written by a white person. But this piece echoes a serious problem in reporting when it comes to talking about young black people who are killed for no good reason by cops and vigilantes and random racists. There always has to be talk about all the little insignificant things they did wrong in their lives, in the way that never happens with white people. Commenting on the smoking of the marijuana and giving the finger and shoplifting - things that literally nearly every teenager in the universe does unless they're Mormon.

I'd really like to know Mr. Eligon's reason for writing this piece.


UPDATE:

Apparently the New York Times has already published a response to the complaints about this piece. John Eligon says that he was trying to create a realistic and human portrait of Mike Brown and argues that there are plenty of positive details about the him. I still feel like the bad outweighed the good by quite a bit. Eligon does say that he regrets the "no angel" part, but was trying to play off of the opening story about Brown seeing an angel in the clouds.

I had a feeling that was why he chose those words, but these articles don't get written and published in a vacuum. There are no vacuums. If you're even a little bit plugged into the black activist community, you know better than to use a phrase like that in an article about another gunned down black kid. You know how harmful it is to say things like that and point out tiny flaws and transgressions while racists are clinging to anything to justify the kid's murder by a white cop. It's no good.


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