When you want to know about homicide and race, or race and the media, or the media and crime, or crime and politicians, ask a cop:
When a local crime story explodes into the nation’s attention, it is worth asking why it has done so. According to the FBI, a murder occurs every 35.6 minutes in the United States, yet few of these killings garner any notice at all beyond the neighborhoods where they occur. So when any one of America’s roughly 15,000 annual homicides attracts what would seem an inordinate level of interest, we are left to wonder why. Are the people involved emblematic of some larger trend? Do the details of the crime offer instruction on how similar crimes might somehow be averted in the future? Or is there some other explanation, one that reflects the choices made by those who decide what stories they see fit to present to their audiences?
Surely the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is no exemplar of some national trend. Though his alleged killer, George Zimmerman, has claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, such “justifiable” killings totaled only 326 in 2010, nearly twice the number reported in 2000 but still a tiny sliver of the total number of homicides reported to police. And even if Zimmerman is shown to have acted illegally in shooting Martin, would this crime reflect some national outbreak of vigilante violence among neighborhood watch volunteers?
No, there has been no such outbreak.So how to explain the fascination with Trayvon Martin’s death? In dispatching swarms of reporters to Sanford, Florida, where Martin was killed, our sophisticated betters in the media have sought to cloak themselves with cheap grace. They focus on one victim whom they perceive to be — and whom they present to be — an innocent victim of an unprovoked shooting, while ignoring the incalculably larger problem of violent crime in America’s black communities.