Opinion: Black, White & everything in between

The media portrays skin colors differently in similar situations of violence

People of color are often seen in a diminutive lens, especially when looked through by a white person. This lens fortifies the protection the privileged white audience has, while also advancing the injustices caused to the marginalized communities.

A mass shooting occurred in the beginning of this month where 59 innocent people lost their lives and nearly 500 were wounded. The gunman, Stephan Paddock, was described by multiple news sources as a country music lover and lone wolf, unfitting to the mass shooter profile. These descriptive terms are used for a man who gunned down more than 500 people from his hotel room, an injustice to American citizens.

This mis-representation of a gunmen causes more harm not only to the victims of this heinous act but to the collective perception surrounding people of color in America.

The lone wolf narrative that has been used by the news to report the atrocious crimes of white men needs to end. It must be called by what it is: domestic terrorism. Stephen Paddock, Dylan Roof and many others are a part of a select few sadistic men who were raised in white nationalist American culture.

These senseless acts were brought on by the very values that seek to eliminate diversity and oppress those who are not white.

This oppression manifests in the news, by glorifying white terrorists and the degrading of people of color.

When 49 LGBTQ- identified people were gunned down in Pulse nightclub on a Latinx-themed dance night, the shooter was immediately labeled a terrorist due to his religious beliefs that were different from the white, Christian American ideals. This is a pattern of American news that consistently portrays nonwhite and possibly foreign people terrorizing citizens on U.S. soil.

This reporting obscured the fact that the gunman was born and raised in America and his victims were queer people of color. His values aligned with the white ‘lone wolves,’ a facet that reporters often use to mislead the average citizen on.

These patterns frequently lead to the depiction of Black citizens as the provokers of the violent crimes that have been brought upon them. Often, this is not the truth that reporters claim to seek. For example, Tamir Rice was a twelve year-old boy who had a toy gun in his hands when police officers shot him dead. Headlines surrounding the time of his death said his murder was justified and a president of a police union in Miami labeled the innocent boy a thug.

This is a disgusting illustration of how two institutions that are meant to uphold justice fail in representing the marginalized people they claim to support.

Some journalists are right in reporting that Paddock’s motivations are unknown, perhaps unknowable forever. But to act like the reason for why reporters victim-blame people of color is not rooted in racial prejudices is ridiculous. Modern America exists in a cross section of systems that were founded on racism and it is time for its citizens to make change.

The focus needs to shift from blaming the victims to blaming the perpetrators of these crimes.

This may seem like common sense to some, but when people of color are consistently demanding justice for the egregious crimes committed against them, and nothing is being done to help and save them, it’s time for change.