On October 24, 2014 Jaylen Fryberg, a 14 year old from Marysville, WA, shot five of his fellow classmates and himself in his high school cafeteria. Like so many times before, the nation held its breath as the details of the event surfaced. Despite this horrific tragedy, Jaylen was considered an outgoing, fun and likable kid. He was recently crowned “homecoming prince” at his school. Fellow classmates even described him as “amazing, very funny and a jokester.”
Authorities researched and found troubling texts, tweets and pictures from the teen leading up to this event. Based on these findings, many police authorities, politicians and media personalities drew conclusions on what happened and why it happened. They proceeded to paint a picture that “personalized” this non-Black teen in a manner that is not afforded to others.
Being familiar with these kinds of cases, one may feel obliged to wonder—how often and to what extent do police authorities and the media seek the truth behind assaults that are allegedly done by Black kids? When do you hear about their personal story? Did he have a girlfriend? Did someone upset the Black kid this morning? Did a teacher embarrass or insult the Black kid yesterday? How is this Black kid being treated at home? Were there any warning signs before this occurrence? We don’t know, because the authorities who control the media rarely or never report those details to the public.
When Black kids allegedly commit crimes, the media usually states terms like “thugs, rappers, gang members, urban youth, and black-on-black crime to generalize the occasion. Most Black kids are not thugs and rappers, but by using the same terms to represent a whole group of people, it is nearly impossible for the public to personalize Black kids who are accused of crimes.
The first step to equal justice in this country is an equal presentation of information. If the media and those who control it continue to poorly present Black kids to the public who are accused of crimes, most of the public will continue to think, boast and believe that Black kids are guilty until proven guilty. The media should be held accountable for its inconsistent presentation of information, so everyone in this country can get a fair chance at justice.