Every time I hear a report of an egregious crime, I cringe. All crime is bad, but crimes against humanity get my attention. Cruelty, violence, and social injustice fuel my curiously. I’m not the only one. These are the ingredients for most television crime dramas. But the reality sets in when a public figure, celebrity, or ANY person I may have held in high regard has been alleged.
Social injustice though? This is an interesting twist. Who commits these crimes? And who are the victims. Crimes against humanity have numerous victims. The punishment never fits the crime. The damage is immeasurable and confidence is lost.
Active shooters and serial rapists trump fraud and imbezzlement (which are also crimes against humanity). How many Americans will truly recover from preditory loans, pension scandals, retirement fund fraud? But these are not juicy enough to hold our attention unless it becomes a personal loss. There’s this old adage: if it bleeds it leads! The first 10 minutes of the nightly news proves this. Politics encompasses the second third of the news, leaving the final portion to public interest “feel good” stories for which no one stays tuned.
We are driven by fear. Our culture feeds on the angst. We are anxious for everything. And we panic over a lot of what we digest from the news. But the news is spoon-fed to us based on our steady diet of sensationalism. They sell what we are buying.
We are offered few choices. We have liberal news or conservative politics. The truth is slanted and the viewing public doesn’t ask enough questions. There’s no major media outlet for the conspiracy theorists, leaving the an entire market ripe for the picking. Underground reporting, research, and responses to legitimate concerns are only slowly surfacing. YouTube and Facebook are the primary source for so many Americans only because the information flows at a steady stream (and the palm-held technology is already providing an endless timeline of informal content).
“Snopes” and other fact checking sources are no more reliable than Asking Geeves (ask.com). Our search for information is abbreviated the moment Google tells us just how quickly it gathered 2 million results on any given topic.
There are certain types of criminal events that recurr, however. And we rarely question their validity. Human interests in a socially sensitive climate, race-related and gender bias stories lead. I don’t think I’m lending a bias when I suggest that our socio-political climate lends itself to crimes against humanity. The abrasive comments that the political leaders, presidential candidates, and their media correspondents spews are the biggest crimes committed in the past 8 months. These are the train wrecks that we can’t look away from.
There’s another crime against humanity that holds our attention just a tad longer. It’s sad really because this type of social behavior has no solution and yet ties up our judicial system and challenges our community resources far greater than any (ignorable) election.
Rape, molestation, serial crimes… Are these crimes more rampant or are they simply reported more frequently? The perpetrators are looking less and less familiar. Or are they? A certain demographic seems to be the audience for these news events.
The New Jim Crow suggests that for decades a systematic injustice has been perpetuated to jail black men. The war on drugs has yielded prison over-crowding and a renewed fear of the black community. And these manipulations and untruths have perpetuated a mistrust of law enforcement in many “ethnic communities.”
Now through mass media, we are learning about crimes that are committed by ethnic minorities. When allegations are made against black celebrities like Bill Cosby or Michael Jackson, America cringes. We begin to accept that no one is above the law.
We’ve witnessed that a nation of oppressed minorities can become a powerful force that can seize authority and change the cultural landscape–politically, socially, and economically. Conversely, powerplays can expose white America to a new kind of hatred and fear of anything non-white. The tables have turned, and the word minority no longer has the same meaning. Term such as “urban” and “economically disadvantaged” were coined to disguise a demographic that was once black, but is now simply poor. When we speak less of race and more of class, what we are really talking about is wealth and power.
And what we are learning is that although the wealthy and the popular have the means to escape penalties, no amount of celebrity can cloak public opinion. Our society condemns more now than it ever did during the conservative “good old days”. There’s no escape.
Will we see more bankers, CEOs and corporate managers go to jail for their misdeeds? Not likely. Celebrities however are more likely to endure the wrath of the justice system. Wesley Snipes or Martha Stewart–neither could escape. Juicier crimes like sexual molestation, sexual assault, or murder will offer the viewing public the opportunity to play judge AND jury.
When the public reacts to tabloid journalism, we can not at all be surprised that we have a presidential candidate whose former career was in business fraud and reality television.
Afrika Bambaataa Victims will tell their story. The media will exploit them. Hip Hop music will get a black eye (no pun intended); and the news-makers will suggest that if “they” could do it, no one is beyond reproach.
Put on your seatbelt America! As African Americans embrace the kingdom that was always denied them, there will be a recognizable force that will shine a spotlight on the indecency of our actions (while demonstrating indifference to its own injustices).