White Media’s Double-Standards

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W.E.B. Dubois once said the problem of the 20th century would be the race problem. Well, we’re in a new century now. Yet, the more some things change, the more others don’t. The last few weeks, the rape case surrounding the white lacrosse players at Duke University has been heating up. Indictments for first-degree forcible rape, first-degree sexual offense and kidnapping charges have been filled against two players, Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty; Seligmann is from Essex Fells, New Jersey and Finnerty is from Garden City, Long Island. However, the African-American victim is also being indicted, by some in the media.

Not surprisingly, there are those in the mainstream media who are crying that the defendants deserve a legal presumption of innocence, since all the evidence has not been presented. I agree. However, it’s funny how the presumption of innocence only seems to apply to whites. Case in point, in New York we have the case of the bouncer who was charged with murder of a white woman. The suspect, Darryl Littlejohn has been repeatedly vilified. And the fact that he is a paroled felon has been played up. The media coverage has been extremely negative, with such biased headlines like “Got Himâ€? and “Nailed.â€? But why is it that someone like Finnerty who was arrested for assault, in Washington last November given the benefit of the doubt, but not someone like Littlejohn? 

On the basis of claims made by the police and prosecution, many have already convicted Littlejohn in their punditry. This has dangerous implications for any hope of an impartial trial by poisoning the minds of people who often end up in the jury pool, after all, The New York Post in one headline declared “IT’S HIM!.� For, time and again we have seen how adverse media reports have led to distorted court rulings against African Americans. The Central Park Jogger Case comes to mind. Before that case started, and amid the media frenzy, many declared the youths guilty, even though there was no physical evidence connecting them to the crime. The case, I believe, for some whites brought out repressed phobias of race and sex like the Scottsboro Boys Case.

For example, in 1989, Donald Trump bought out space in The New York Times, The New York Post, New York Newsday and The Daily News newspapers to castigate the youths in a 600-word piece headlined “Bring Back the Death Penalty, Bring Back our Police!� But due to overwhelming DNA evidence, and a confession by Matias Reyes, that he alone committed the crime, the convictions were rescinded. Many in the police department, City Hall, and elsewhere, in spite of the conclusiveness of the DNA linking Reyes alone to the crime, still maintain their belief that the youths are guilty. This willfulness in disregarding the truth, when it exonerates Blacks, highlights double standards regarding race in the arena of justice. We saw the same thing during the O.J Trial.

Dr. Henry Lee the leading expert in forensic analysis called into question much of the prosecution’s evidence in the O.J. case. So, too did Dr. Jeffrey McDonald. And we know that Mark Furhman the lead detective in the case, the one who found all the incriminating evidence, is a racist. But amid the clamoring of voices to serve up O.J.’s head on a platter white America ignored the facts voting their bigotry.  Now the same “rush to judgmentâ€? is readily apparent in the so-called Harlem “wolf packâ€? case.

In this ongoing case, Hassan Mayfield, Andre Johnson, both 15, and Denzel Fell and Bobby Guzman both 13, had all been charged as adults with second-degree murder and attempted robbery. NYU student, John Broderick Hehman was killed after being allegedly chased into oncoming traffic, where he was struck and killed—remember Howard Beach?—by a car. The coverage in this case is also instructive in the inherent bias African-Americans still face. Several newspapers and magazines have characterized the youths as “wolf packs.� For example, the First Post online magazine ran this headline “Beware the Harlem wolf packs.� And several papers including The Gothamist and New York Post also made references to the so-called “wolf packs.� New York’s leader in sewer journalism, The New York Post in an April 10th story characterized the youths as a “wolf pack of punks.�

Now in the Duke Rape Case the tactic has been to smear the accuser because she makes money as a so-called exotic dancer. Now, much has been made of a DNA test that failed to link any of the lacrosse players to the accuser. But in the Central Park Case the same was true and that didn’t stop the police or D.A from trying the defendants.  And it didn’t stop the media either. So, the facts are clear, racial double standards are prevalent in criminal justice issues and the media’s coverage of it. The evidence is there. All we have to do is read along and between the lines.

“Speaking Truth To Empower.� To contact The Black Star News write editor@blackstarnews.com or call (212) 481-7745. Subscribe to this newspaper and advertise to build power.

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