Just in case this segment left you scratching your head, let's break down what it all means. This brilliantly scathing piece was meant to show the hypocrisy in how news media talks criminal behavior in black and white communities. And the takeaway is this:
Our media is incredibly biased when it comes to covering crime involving people of color.
How do we know? Let's look at three themes that play out over and over again.
1. Victim-shaming vs. killer sympathy
2014 was full of protests and demonstrations in response to unarmed black men, women, and children killed by the police without consequence. And while these stories were all over the news, too many focused on blaming the victims for previous unrelated criminal behavior.
- When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a police officer in November 2014, a Cleveland news site ran the story "Tamir Rice's father has history of domestic violence" as if his father's past behavior was somehow relevant.
- In April 2015, an unarmed Walter Scott was shot six times in the back by a South Carolina police officer. Although the incident was captured on film and the officer was charged with murder, NBC News ran a story following the incident titled: "Walter Scott Had Bench Warrant for His Arrest, Court Documents Show."
- And after a police officer shot and killed unarmed John Crawford in August 2014 in response to a bad tip from a Walmart customer, multiple outlets ran headlines mentioning that Crawford had THC in his system.
All three of these incidents were captured on camera and suggest gross police misconduct, yet the victims in these cases were essentially put on trial.
Meanwhile, the news media is notorious for sympathetically portraying white men and women suspected of crimes (including murder). Take James Eagan Holmes. He was responsible for the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, shooting that left 12 people dead and many more injured — and was noted as a "brilliant science student."
Elliot Rodger, who killed six people plus himself and injured 14 others in Santa Barbara, California, in 2014, was described as "soft-spoken, polite, a gentleman."
See the difference?
2. Coverage of unruly crowds
Riots are never a good thing. But here, too, the media uses a certain spin when the crowd is white.
When riots broke out after the 2011 Stanley Cup, you'd be hard-pressed to find any media blaming "white culture" for the actions of a few hundred rowdy sports fans.
Instead, incidents of mob violence involving large groups of white people in Vancouver, New Hampshire, and Huntington Beach (featured in the Chris Hayes clip) are presented as anomalies. It's also worth noting that in these instances, law enforcement makes efforts to de-escalate the situation and avoid excessive force.
This contrasts how news media and police responded when a handful of people began damaging property during 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and April 2015 protests in Baltimore over growing frustrating with police brutality. Not only did police show up to the Ferguson and Baltimore protests in full riot gear with military equipment and tear gas, news media continued to demonize protesters and lay the blame on the black community instead of addressing the root of their growing frustrations.