“We must muster outrage over the routine dehumanization that happens in our criminal-justice system, rather than reserve it for the most extraordinary instances of injustice, if we are to maintain a movement for change,” writes Jonathan Rapping at the Nation.
One has to admire the way we, as a country, have paid tribute to the lives of Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu, the two New York police officers shot to death while sitting in their police cruiser. We have rallied to support their families across ideological lines, demanding that they be remembered with dignity and honor.
But, juxtaposed against continued protests over police mistreatment of black men, they also help to highlight the fact that other lives are not valued at all.
Michael Brown was left dead in the street for four hours after being shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. Eric Garner lay dying on a sidewalk after being choked in Staten Island, surrounded by the NYPD police officers who exhibited no sense of urgency to help him. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, was playing with a toy gun when he was shot dead less than two minutes after being confronted by a Cleveland police officer.
Rather than unifying in similar grief over these deaths, news outlets helped to justify the killings by dehumanizing the victims. We learned that Brown had been in a scuffle once, that he dabbled in drugs and that he may have stolen some cigars earlier on the day of his death. We were told that Garner had a history of selling untaxed cigarettes on the street and that he was out on bail at the time of his death. And while Rice was too young to have amassed any documented life-mistakes, the media wasted no time letting us know that his father had a history of domestic violence.
Of course, none of this information had anything to do with the actions of police. While we would rightfully have been disgusted at the media’s attempt to dig up minor transgressions slain officers Ramos and Liu may have committed, we tolerated this reporting because it fit into our accepted narrative that some lives are less valuable than others.
Read more at the Nation.