Thoughts On CNN Demonizing Freddie Gray

Onyx Contributor:  Stephanie Monk (@stephinitely666)

You may not have read the article on CNN by Ann O’Neill titled, First Officer Goes on Trial in Freddie Gray Death, wherein Freddie was described as “the son of an illiterate heroin addict”.  You might only associate Freddie Gray with chaos and riots.  You also might not have read the article on CNN, also by Ann O’Neill titled, A Look Inside the Broken Mind of James Holmes; a detailed look into the mental health of Aurora theater gunman James Holmes.  You might associate the name James Holmes with talks of gun rights and mental health.

In the article about the officers on trial for the death of Freddie Gray, Ann and her collaborators found it vital to describe Freddie and his family in a fashion that would belittle and demonize them, yet Freddie Gray simply ran from the police and then surrendered moments later; only to die in police custody.  When describing James Holmes, who shot and killed people in a packed movie theater, though she uses adjectives like “cold” and “grisly” she does not attempt to demonize him or his family.  She paints him as a disturbed yet still human individual.  She makes no mention of his parents or family life in the way she made no mention of Freddie Gray’s mental health.

There are times we want to believe the world around us is simple.  We want to believe things are not so bad.  There are times we must set that comfort and illusion aside and take things at face value.  This is one of those times.

We need to stand up and talk about these atrocious disparities.  If we are to evaluate the mental state of a white male when he shot a theater full of people, why are we not evaluating the mental state of black men, women, and children at the points that lead to them fleeing or resisting the police?  Why are we not discussing why someone running away is viewed as a deadly threat — especially factoring in age, size and being unarmed?

Why do we examine the mental state of officers (see:  “I feared for my life”), yet not the mental state of the victims?  After all, that could be difficult — these victims all too often end up dead.  However, when the first reporters fail to raise these questions, they set the standard for how we will perceive these victims.  All too often reporters are failing their responsibilities and morality in this regard.  It is no coincidence that these reports churn out in the same fashion time and time again.

Reporters — are you really blind to your racism and overt lack of common sense and compassion?  Are you outright taught to demean or dehumanize black victims and alleged offenders while casting white offenders in a sympathetic and innocent light?  The ingrained racism is prevalent whether we can notice it without being told or not.  It is time we all start looking for it and catching it so we can end these disparities.

We all know white victims have never been cast in such a horrible, dehumanizing light as black victims like Freddie Gray.  Even 12 year old Tamir Rice was anathematized to the point where the vast majority of white folks are still under the impression that he was pointing a gun at officers (he wasn’t), that he was with a group (he was alone), and that he ignored orders from the officers (they gave no orders — they shot him within .2 seconds of arriving at the scene).

Why is that we have all of this misinformation about black victims but white folks can tell me what color Starbucks cups are and who won the latest football game and what underwear Jennifer Aniston was wearing last Tuesday at 7:23pm EST?  Why allow yourself to ignore the disparities and buy into the dangerous stereotypes and condone the dehumanization of our black counterparts?  We must start questioning these reports.  We must start looking at these reports with eyes wide open.  We must start calling for responsibility and equality.  We cannot allow ourselves to continue to be manipulated by these bias reports.

Ann O’Neill, shame on you for perpetuating these hateful contrasts and racisms.

Shame to all of you reporters who do the same and mountains of shame to you white folk who encourage it.

Freddie Gray was 25 years old.  If his mother was indeed an “illiterate heroin addict” why do you feel that makes this any less of a tragedy?  Do you think her heart would ache less?  Illiterate — because of underfunded and deprived inner city schools?  Illiterate — sure to the systemic oppression and racism that has set black people up for failure for decades?  Illiterate — did schools really integrate?  Heroin addict — do you think this is because drugs were heavily distributed into black communities throughout the 70s and 80s and even still to this day as a means of destroying black communities?  Heroin addict — do you think living under systemic oppression would make on turn away from readily accessible, mind altering substances?  Heroin addict.  Illiterate.

James Holmes’ mom?  Where are her credentials?  Tell me she does no drugs, even prescriptions, even coffee.  Tell me she’s always had medical care.  Tell me what schools she went to.  Where are her details, Ann O’Neill?

Why are we, as white society, holding white people accountable for their actions as individuals while blaming black people as a whole?  Why are we placing blame onto his mother, who had nothing to do with how we came to die in police custody?  Why are we not treating people as equals here?  Blame neither person’s parents, or blame them both.  I personally am against blaming others for adult decisions.  While I agree that our upbringing has a lot to do with how we turn out and the decisions we later make, I also agree that as adults we are to be held responsible for our actions.  Accordingly and appropriately.  Being in police custody should not be a death sentence.  Shooting a theater full of men, women and children, however could be a death sentence.  So tell me Ann O’Neill, what about James Holmes’ mother led him to decide to take the lives of innocent people?  What about his mother was it that explains his actions?  You are quick to use Freddie Gray’s mother and her actions against him, so what was it about James Holmes’ mother?

Certainly she did something wrong, right?

You’re wrong, Ann.


Header image:  Nether

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