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Tony Timpa, George Floyd, and Media Bias in Police Brutality Reporting
Police brutality is more than just a black and white issue.
Police brutality continues to be a contentious issue in the United States. It has sparked heated debates on the airwaves and interwebs, and even in government proceedings. Yet, despite its continual presence in public discourse, solutions for this problem remain elusive.
In my years covering politics, I have seen that how the media covers incidents in which police officers abuse citizens has had an unproductive effect on the national conversation about this issue. The problem is in how they selectively cover certain instances of police misconduct while all but ignoring others. This selective coverage has only made it harder for Americans to come together to demand that our local and state governments create systems by which officers are held accountable when they overstep their boundaries.
Let’s face it. The press loves to cover black victims of police misconduct. People like George Floyd, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and plenty of others, receive wall-to-wall coverage, especially when video footage showing their fatal encounters with police go viral on social media. These stories get extensive coverage from national elite media outlets – as they should.
However, if the victim happens to be white, Hispanic, Asian, or any other ethnicity, they tend to get scant coverage at the national level. Sure, these stories are featured on local news outlets – but it rarely rises beyond that for any significant amount of time.
Take, for example, the case of Tony Timpa. In 2016, Timpa, a white man, called 911 from a parking lot in Dallas, expressing his fear and mentioning that he was off his medication for anxiety and schizophrenia. A distressing encounter with the police ended with his death – an officer knelt on his neck for 14 minutes. Currently, Timpa’s parents are suing the officers involved in his death, which was ruled a homicide.
The haunting similarities between Timpa's and George Floyd's deaths are undeniable. However, Timpa's death didn't receive widespread attention until after Floyd's incident, arguably because of the lack of a racial angle.
We already know why the media chooses to focus on black victims of corrupt police officers, and it has absolutely nothing to do with protecting African Americans from being abused by law enforcement. The reason why they cover these cases so extensively is because they can use it to promote the idea that America is an inherently racist nation and use it to demonize police. Yet, a lyric from rapper Eric July comes to mind when I see this:
Start making sense when you realize the lies
I hate to say it, but your protesting is ill-advised
You put your life into the hands of a bunch of silly guys
It’s a contradiction if freedom has to be legalized
For example, when a cop’s shooting a black man you focus on the racism, ignoring all the statism
Holding signs, rioting is not about to save him
Cause you must’ve forgot that that’s the power that you gave them
I do not deny that black people are more likely to suffer unfair abuse at the hands of the police. I don’t even deny that racial bias has been present in a lot of these cases. However, focusing only on race does nothing to solve the problem because the real issue is the fact police abuse Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds.
I recently covered a story about a homeless disabled veteran named Joshua Rohrer in Gastonia, North Carolina who was unfairly roughed up and arrested by local police officers. These corrupt thugs in badges even went so far as to tase his service dog, which died a few days later.
The reason why the media’s selective coverage of these incidents is detrimental to the conversation is because if more people knew how rampant police misconduct has become, they would be more motivated to do something about it. Right now, it seems most people believe these things happen almost exclusively to poor black people. In reality, it happens to everyone.
But if the media’s coverage is only limited to one segment of the population, then there is not as much of a motivation for we the people to stand against it. After all, if it is only happening to a few people, then it must not be that big of a deal, right?
Moreover, focusing solely on stories with a racial angle further politicizes an issue that should never have been political in the first place. People on the left and right can agree that it is wrong for police to use their positions to abuse those they are sworn to serve. Yet, every time one of these incidents gets national attention, everyone falls into their political echo chambers and parrot the usual talking points given to them by their influencers and politicians without stopping to think critically about the situation.
If the press truly cared about police brutality, they would cover a wider swath of victims, not just the ones that enable them to push a political agenda. Indeed, if America came together to fix this problem, everyone would benefit, black, white, and otherwise.
Perhaps this is why members of the press do not use their platforms in a way that would lead to solutions. After all, if the problem is solved, how else will they get ratings and clicks by fomenting racial outrage?
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