Mainstream Media Cannot Ignore Growing Civil Unrest Around the Country

by Monique John for Hello Beautiful 

So… #SolidarityisSTILLforWhiteWomen but #BlackLivesMatter…

The protests in Ferguson center around the killing of yet another young innocent Black male, and of course, Black media sources including the thousands of everyday contributions via social media have helped document the evolution of this story and the movement taking root around the country. It stands to reason that all publications with any kind of investment in news, social commentary and women’s issues should be aggressively covering Brown’s. So it is curious, though not surprising, that many of the most popular and prestigious websites for social commentary seem unable to do just that, and problematic because thus far, the killing of Black children has largely been constructed as a concern exclusively for Black women in feminist media and activism.

I’m curious about the feminist and women’s publications that are known for catering to largely White audiences and how they’ve chosen to cover—or not cover—a national story that is a defining a moment in our country’s legal history. To their credit, Jezebel, XoJane, The Frisky and Feministing have been discussing Brown’s case since its inception but their coverage was light in comparison to the aggressive and exhaustive coverage they executed to discuss rape allegations against Bill Cosby and other past sexual assault scandals. The fact that these publications were relatively quiet about Ferguson in the weeks leading up to and directly following Robert McCulluch’s announcement is striking because Brown’s murder case has had a severe impact on the psyche of marginalized people (more specifically, women and people of color) in America.

Many of these concerns are encapsulated by the Black community’s frustration with mainstream (read: predominantly White) media institutions and their failure to tell our stories with accuracy and nuance—that is if they tell our stories at all. More than that, the events that unfolded in Ferguson, MO speak directly to the issue of reproductive rights as it affects people of color. The question of whether or not Darren Wilson would be indicted for Brown’s murder appeared synonymous with asking ridiculous yet uncomfortably mundane questions: who deserves the right to life in this country? Is the murder of a Black child a punishable act, even if he was innocent and unarmed? If innocent Black children are being murdered by authority figures with impunity, then can Black people—or for our purposes, Black women—actually exercise their freedom to give life and to raise families as protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?

If the feminist movement will continue to grow, it has to treat the concerns of women from all socioeconomic backgrounds equally. The murder of Black and Brown people (male and female) is just as urgent and relevant as feminist issues surrounding divisions of labor, media/political representation, gendered/sexualized violence and other iterations of social inequality and it deserves to be treated as such—especially by our White counterparts in the movement.

Analyzing the murder of Michael Brown is an amazingly complex (and outright exhausting) feat because the story epitomizes so many facets of Black people’s concerns in today’s America. It touches on racial stereotypes, the criminalization of Black youth, police brutality and even gun control—particularly for those with concerns on how to protect themselves in the wake of the protests and riots.

Many of these concerns are encapsulated by the Black community’s frustration with mainstream (read: predominantly White) media institutions

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. There were an impressive number of White people from all ages and backgrounds that were out marching in the streets in response to Robert McCulloch’s announcement on Monday night. I would expect that these publications would do more to cater to their interests, but maybe these publications felt that they were entitled to discuss Cosby’s story in greater depth because as women’s publications, they feel entitled to discuss stories around sexual violence as opposed to racialized police brutality. Furthermore, the trope of the Black male rapist is one that they’re accustomed to engaging with (whether that’s consciously or subconsciously).

Or maybe they’re just as oblivious as I always feared they were.

Recently, one of my fellow panelists on an evening television broadcast asked me how Black feminism fit into contemporary conversations about civil rights, social justice and identity politics. I didn’t know how to answer his question. I’ve reached a point where I see feminist theory as being ubiquitous and essential to all of those subjects and many more. Being asked to point out how (Black) feminism is still relevant to activism in the 21st century is like being asked to point out how mainstream hip hop is connected to consumerism and capitalism in contemporary America. There is no beginning or end to that response.

Continue reading at Hello Beautiful

Photo Credit: Betto Rodrigues, Deposit Photos

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