Charlotte is at the forefront of the news for rioting over another police shooting. Of course this one was different. It looks like it wasn’t an unarmed man being killed and it wasn’t a white officer doing the shooting, yet a lot of people went uptown and broke all sorts of stuff, started fires, beat people and someone shot a man in the head, who later died in the hospital.
Some would say because of years of oppression. Some would say because of a string of police shootings that have been highly publicized thought the press and social media. I have a different take: They rioted because of yet another rush to judgment.
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When the story first broke it was reported that a man, peacefully reading in his car, waiting to get his son off the school bus and give him hugs, was ambushed by a white officer and shot in cold blood. The local NBC affiliate showed footage of a man screaming about the “white devils” killing people in this country and the victim’s own daughter was interviewed where she said flat out “a cracker killed my daddy.”.
The media didn’t hesitate to run with this version for the first few hours. Protesters took to the streets with signs that read “It Was Just a Book” as if they’ve just come from the scene. Black ministers and leaders took to the airwaves to talk about how the killing of unarmed black men must stop.
In the aftermath, Uptown had businesses looted, streets littered with shattered glass and burnt garbage cans and bloodstains where people were beaten. And yet waiting just a couple of days would’ve let people see that the victim was most likely not unarmed. He wasn’t executed in his vehicle, and that he exited the car and confronted the police. Like the victim, the officer in the shooting also is African-American.
But the media continues to run with story lines that aren’t confirmed and let them take hold. They perpetrate catchphrases like “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” or “It Was Just a Book” and rush to judgment. Which is ironic because just last week, the media urged calm and for the public to wait for the facts regarding the bombings in NYC and Seaside Heights, N.J. They urged people not to attack Muslims out of the assumption that Muslim terrorists planted the bombs.
Why the caution in those cases, yet put pitchforks in people’s hands in the police incidents? I don’t know the answer to that, nor do I understand the immediacy there is in reporting news before the facts are out.
We don’t need catch phrases – just responsibility.
Scott Cost: firstname.lastname@example.org