July 09, 2016

Trust, Innocence, and Bias

Back when I was reporting on elections within Islas, a group of students who gathered online and, on rare occasions, in person, I wrote outrageous stories documenting the votes as they came in, the candidates and the differences between their vote counts, and typically inserted a claim of a complete lack of bias somewhere along the way.

The mainstream media makes no such overt claim, and my contention is that they know they're biased and that they couldn't reasonably claim otherwise and expect people to believe them.

Maybe the day is coming when they will and can make that claim and be believed.

But I'm talking about today.

As of today, there have been two recent, high-profile incidents wherein a black man was killed by a police officer.

Now, the guilt of the officers is not mine to judge; ultimately, their guilt may not even be accurately determined by investigation and the minds of attorneys and judges.

What I'm here to write about, and what I believe is a despicable and manipulative evil, is the bias the media shows concerning the character of the victims in these incidents.

From heavy.com: "Philando Castile: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know"

1. He Was a Beloved School Cafeteria Worker Who Snuck Extra Graham Crackers to Children 
2. He Was a Straight-A Student in High School & Had Only a Minor Criminal Record 
3. He Frequently Posted About Social Justice Causes, & His Sister Posted About Alton Sterling Just Hours Before Castile’s Death 
4. Castile Had a Concealed Carry Permit, According to His Girlfriend, & Informed the Officer That He Was Armed 
5. Protests Erupted in the Wake of the Shooting, & the Governor Called for a Federal Investigation
So Castile was an innocent, unassuming, and ordinary individual with a "minor" criminal record? (other sites are spreading modified lists which claim he had "no criminal record,")

And allegedly he was pulled over and shot exclusively because of the color of his skin?

The fact is, Castile had been pulled over, charged, convicted, and sentenced for dozens of traffic offenses.

In addition, according to police radios, Castile was a suspect in an armed robbery no more than one day prior to his death.

In a recording submitted by a "KARE11 viewer" which seems to contain the officers' transmissions during the incident, one of the officers stated on the radio that he thought Castile matched the description of one of the perpetrators of an armed robbery the previous day.

If one were to watch any one story on the major news stations on the subject, one might believe that both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were law-abiding, normal, ordinary, average citizens like you and I. You might believe, following such a report, that these men were, indeed, individually targeted exclusively because of their race.

In both cases, this is at best misleading, and more likely a bald-faced lie which slowly but surely erodes the trust between citizens (particularly black Americans) and police officers.

I cannot emphasize enough how much this troubles me. I believe it to be a true evil to report as truth that Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were upstanding, good-natured, ordinary people.

The fact is that neither of them were like you or I. Most of my readers are most likely not sex offenders, and most of my readers have most likely never robbed a convenience store at gunpoint. Most of my readers haven't brandished an illegal gun in a parking lot and said, "I told you to leave me alone," when a homeless person persists in asking for money.

What's my point? My point is definitely not that Castile or Sterling deserved to die. The fact that they were criminals, or had committed crimes in the past, has no bearing on whether a police officer should shoot them during a traffic stop or even an arrest.

My point is that the media's obsessive empathy with the victims of these horrific tragedies turns a blind eye to the fact that many of these victims aren't innocent and law-abiding citizens. Certainly before the incidents they were criminal in their actions, and in both cases it seems they were actively disobeying the law; Castile a suspect in an armed robbery, Sterling illegally carrying a firearm.

This speaks nothing to the immeasurable importance of being calm, collected, and cooperative with police officers during any and all encounters with them. I believe neither Sterling nor Castile were any of these things, as in both cases they had reason at the very least to be defensive and unhelpful, and at worst, to fear the just eye of the law.

I must reiterate what I said before, because I believe it is simply a matter of life and death, in particular to black Americans.

If the mainstream media continues to profess the victims of these incidents as not only ordinary, kind people, but also truly innocent of any and all wrongdoing, the trust between black people and cops will disintegrate and eventually be utterly lost.

A deficit of trust between cops and citizens is immeasurably perilous. As this trust erodes, our servant protectors are rendered impotent.