In the wake of riots in Ferguson and Baltimore (as well as massive, disruptive protests led by BlackLivesMatter in major cities across the United States), many Americans are asking why.
- Why are blacks burning down businesses in their own communities?
- Why are protestors looting CVSs, launching Molotov cocktails at police cruisers, and performing die-ins and stopping traffic on interstates?
Why, as Fox News likes to put it, has the black community “forgot[ten] Martin Luther King’s message” of peaceful protest?
The answer is simple: They haven’t. It’s just that no one cares about peaceful protest. At least not the mainstream media.
For every violent act of protest we’ve witnessed via news choppers and Geraldo Rivera, countless peaceful protests in those same communities have gone ignored by that very same media.
The mainstream media’s moto used to be, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Today it’s, “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t exist.”
The Baltimore Uprising is a perfect example.
Just about every news source in the United States—liberal, right wing, and independent—was on the ground and in the air when Penn North erupted into fire and chaos. That very same media disappeared, however, when the uprising turned to celebration upon State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s indictment of the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death. Mainstream media failed to cover the two-day block party that ensued in the streets of Penn North, and the 30-40 thousand person victory march from Baltimore City Hall to Penn North was completely ignored. As Baltimore citizen protestor Kwame Rose put it to Geraldo Rivera live on Fox News two nights prior: “Two years ago, when the 300 man march…marched from…Hilton and North to Milton and North, you weren’t here. But you’re here for the black riots that happen.”
The same was true, and remains true, in Ferguson.
Between the initial rioting that took place between August 10 and August 21 and the second round of riots that erupted after the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson November 25, BlackLivesMatter and the community held peaceful protests around Michael Brown’s memorial and outside the Ferguson Police Station for 90 days. 90 days. That’s three months of peaceful, non-violent, daily protest that received virtually zero mainstream media attention and, of course, had very little influence on the grand jury.
This “appalling silence” comes from the very same media that spends more time criticizing “violent” protests that have resulted in not a single confirmed fatality than they spend on criticizing law enforcement that, according to the Washington Post, had already killed nearly 400 American citizens by May 30 of this year, 16% of them unarmed. Of that unarmed 16%, “two-thirds…were black or Hispanic” with blacks “killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities…” That number had climbed to 500 a month later, an average of “more than two a day….more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete” (emphasis added).
Likewise, when I marched with the NAACP’s Journey For Justice: Ferguson to Jefferson City, a 134-mile march last December through central Missouri’s shockingly racist countryside, NPR was the only mainstream media source to follow us beyond the St. Louis county line, even when we passed through the small town of Rosebud, Missouri where the local sheriff refused to escort us through town and counter protestors (many of whom wore the garb of the KKK and brandished Confederate flags) lined both sides of the street screaming racial explicates and brandished signs that read things like “All this for one dead Nigger” and “Shoot thieves” and shattered the back window of our bus, presumably via bullet.
When I called the New York Times that night with an offering of free video, images, and testimony of our march through town, they said they weren’t interested. When the video went viral near the end of the march, the encounter was briefly mentioned in an article on the march’s successful completion buried on page A15 of the December 6 New York edition. Without social media and local media coverage, no one would have heard a peep about it.
The NAACP’s America’s Journey for Justice, a 1000-mile, 45-day march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC to protest the deterioration of the Voting Rights Act is the most recent example. America’s Journey for Justice is by far the longest civil rights march in world history. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery was 54 miles. Mohandas Gandhi’s salt march was approximately 240 miles. Yet, even after one of the marchers, Middle Passage, a 68-year old veteran of Viet Nam and Korea, passed away while on the march 50 miles south of DC and Bernie Sanders showed up for the rally held at its terminus on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the mainstream media paid it virtually no attention.
The mainstream media did, however, cover the Real World-like Rachel Doleval scandal for hours on end. And they did a fantastic job of covering the riots that ensued in Ferguson on the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, again failing to highlight the day of peaceful protest.
When it comes to affecting political change in the United States, there are all sorts of peaceful methods: writing letters to politicians, holding rallies, writing articles in the newspaper, lobbying Congress, holding sit-ins, and, particularly well known in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, driving around the state capitol and blaring your horn anytime the state attempts to pass a tax increase. The black community has engaged in all of these activities (save, perhaps, for horn honking), yet they’re voices are almost always ignored.
Let’s not forget that it took the slaughter of nine black churchgoers in their own sanctuary simply to remove a flag from a state capital because white Southerners falsely consider it a symbol of their heritage.
When peaceful methods fall on deaf ears and are completely ignored by the mainstream media most Americans depend on for news, what else but rioting and looting is left?
In the face of the “appalling silence” of the mainstream media, what else but rioting and looting can possibly garner attention?
Rioting has long been a tool of the civilly disobedient.
Unfortunately, due to the failure of the “free press,” violent protest is quickly becoming the only tool of black Americans desperate to shed light on their life-and-death struggle to survive in an increasingly inequitable United States.
As long as the “free” press continues to ignore the peaceful protests going on in the countless US cities where an unarmed black person has been killed by a police officer, it’s only a matter of time until we’re tuning in to yet another Ferguson or Baltimore.
This, of course, begs the question:
Is this silence a failing of the mainstream media or are riots exactly what the mainstream media wants?
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