As the circumstances around the death of Mr. Freddie Gray continue to unfold, I find myself dismayed by news media reports. I do think that investigative journalism is important and needed. However, the blow-by-blow construction of a narrative about how this man died does not represent for me that type of journalism.
As news outlets, like CNN and nightly network news, interview various legal experts, police consultants, politicians and/or political pundits, news anchors as well as those being interviewed offer interpretations that are deeply embedded in histories of problematic relationships between all of the groups involved-- African American people (male and female), lower socioeconomic classes of people, and the police. The relationships between these groups have been and are fraught with distrust, fear, and brutality on all sides.
Brandon Scott, Baltimore City Councilman, offered important commentary on CNN Live this morning as he called on everyone to stop leaking contradictory information and give the state’s attorney opportunity to do her work. Yes, he was on CNN, but Mr. Scott was not there offering an interpretation; he was most importantly calling for accountability, due process, and justice. All of these—accountability, due process, and justice—are not easily attained in these matters. However, why not seek to reach for them from whatever role we are playing in this sociopolitically charged moment?
Furthermore, the reporting on Toya Graham and her public disciplining of her son is a mixed bag. I am glad that the news outlets have chosen to interview Ms. Graham, thus allowing her voice to be heard. Still, as Michaela Angela Davis (African American cultural critic) reminds us in her interview on CNN Live today, “Toya Graham is complicated; she is a symbol and not a hero.” Ms. Davis elaborates upon this point by calling attention to Ms. Graham’s response as one that can be assessed as a response that bespeaks of the feeling that your only option is violence because of the terror of systemic violence that daily impinges upon her life. The CNN Newsroom anchor Carol Costello tries to provide a balance (corrective?) to Ms. Davis’ commentary, pointing out that the son was a big guy who was unhurt by his mother’s slaps. Why not simply seek clarity from the cultural critic?
What do you think about news reporting during this event, and/or in the 21st century generally?
Come, join me out on a limb . . .