Is it just me, or is the death of 18 year-old Mike Brown getting lost in your newsfeed?
Confession: I have to force myself to keep up with the current situation in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Although I could blame the attention-grabbing headlines of Robin Williams’ death, or the onslaught of airstrikes, cease-fires and Ebola outbreaks occurring around the globe for my lack of awareness, it’s my business to stay abreast with what transpires specifically in the black community. Problem is, I think I’ve hit a threshold involving transgressions against black folk.
Updates about the unlawful death of Eric Garner, coupled with the recent guilty verdict in the Renisha McBride trial held my total attention going into the weekend. Suddenly, headlines about a young, unarmed teen gunned down in his neighborhood for allegedly stealing candy casually floated by on my screen. With his arms reportedly raised in surrender, Mike Brown was shot multiple times by an unidentified police officer who is currently placed on paid administrative leave while the FBI investigates. While we await more details surrounding another erasure of a young black man, I minimized the articles’ links on my screen, finding it difficult to allow the reality of Brown’s murder to bypass the still lingering pain of Trayvon’s or Jordan Davis’ slayings. I’ve checked out as a coping mechanism to the hopelessness I feel in protecting our own.
The media’s manipulation of the images accompanying this story make a huge contribution to my indifference. Before getting to know the life of Mike Brown, media outlets have portrayed his death in a demonizing fashion. Most captions about Brown’s death are accompanied by photos that show him in a “thuggish” light. For instance, pictures of his lifeless body strewn across the ground piques most of our interest, but if you look close, his pants are completely below his rear, exposing his underwear. (This has prompted the latest Twitter campaign #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.) I have become more numb when the media continues to paint black men’s lifestyles with broad, urban, low-income, criminal-minded strokes that are meant to further diminish their existence in this country.
The struggle has rendered me helpless and forlorn. I honestly don’t know if the vigils, protests and Al Sharpton appearances are making any differences in the long run. Hoodies and trending hashtags make us believe change is a-coming, but in reality they mean absolutely nothing when policies and legalities continue to ignore the ongoing extinction of our brothers.
Tanya Tatum is the outspoken host of “The Tatum Talks,” a live Blog Talk Radio show focusing on African-American interests. Listen to some of her best episodes here. You can also join her for a daily discussion on Facebook and follow her @TheTatumTalks on Twitter.