Derek Chauvin Trial

Words Matter: Convict Derek Chauvin and Stop Putting George Floyd on Trial In The Court of Public Opinion

Media check your bias and stop putting villainizing Black murder victims

Photo by Andrew "Donovan" Valdivia on Unsplash

Derek Chauvin is being tried for murdering George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Today, Monday, March 8, 2021 is the first day of Chauvin’s trial.

Yet, on March 1, 2021 TMZ’s headline read, George Floyd Trial Courthouse Barricaded with Barbed Wire, Fencing. The Twitter world quickly admonished TMZ and asked them to correct the headline, but they never did and here why this is so problematic:

Twitter

I cannot stress enough, George Floyd is not on trail. His murderer, Derek Chauvin is and he’s on trial for nonchalantly putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Harvey Levin is not only the founder of TMZ, he’s also a shrewd legal analyst, lawyer and former investigative reporter who covered the infamous OJ Simpson Trial. Therefore, Harvey knows better and he also knows - words matter! I watched Harvey during that trial and not once was OJ’s trial headlined by one of the victims.

I cannot stress enough, George Floyd is not on trail. His murderer, Derek Chauvin is and he’s on trial for nonchalantly putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

This is a glaring example of how careless and biased the media can be…I’ve never seen white victims named in high profile trials where the alleged perpetrator was Black, but there are several examples of the Black victims named in trial headlines where they were the victim:

The most famous was the “Rodney King Trial” involved several officers. Yet, even History.com refuse to name the officers that were eventually convicted of violating Mr. King’s civil rights. Here is the first paragraph from the site.

A jury in the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley acquits four police officers who had been charged with using excessive force in arresting black motorist Rodney King a year earlier. The announcement of the verdict, which enraged the black community, prompted the L.A. riots, which spread quickly throughout much of the sprawling city. It wasn’t until three days later that the arson and looting finally ended. History.com

In a previous piece, I used History.com as a Black history reference. Now I’m rethinking my choice. The verdict didn’t “enrage the Black community” the injustice from the verdict rocked the nation. Nobody with a iota of human kindness or sense of justice could look at the brutal, gang style police beating of Rodney King and not see “excessive force” — but apparently an all white jury didn’t see it and the jury’s bias fanned the flames of outrage and sparked protests. What History.com called rage was frustration and despair. Isn’t that how the Republicans described the insurrection who stormed the Capital?

CNN didn’t do much better with the Amber Geiger murder case, and the coverage of the creepy coddling overshadowed the deceptive details of how she and another officer allegedly tried to cover up her murder of Botham Jean. Mr. Jean was unarmed and innocently sitting his own apartment when she shot him several times claiming she was confused and thought she was in her apartment.

Time.com did a better job of naming Eric Garner as the victim and naming the Daniel Pantaleo as the officer who was ultimately responsible for his torturous death by putting Mr. Garner in a deadly choke hold although Time used the words “wrestled”. Eric Garner’s death was also filmed and the citizen who filmed it faced legal backlash and was arrested.

Why words matter in the fight against injustice

When the press use Black victim’s names instead of their perpetrators for quick headlines, they’re subliminally putting the victims on trial and allowing their murders and accomplices to anonymously hide in the shadows, and remain innocent by default — in the court of public opinion.

I’m not a journalist, but I think the best practice would be using the name of the person on trial and victim.

While I understand that both George Floyd and Rodney King were victims of police brutality from several officers, at the very least name one of the officers in the headline as “one of” whatever total involved and then name the rest of the officers in the story.

The press are suppose to be our truth tellers — if they reporting Black victims as the person on trial — they rob them of their innocence and sympathy that is due when humans are victims of heinous crimes. If the press isn’t going to report the story in fair and objective manner — who can we trust?

Media — do better! Black lives matter — especially when they’re being destroyed and taken by those who are paid to protect and serve.

This is why Black media and citizen journalism is important and needed. Complex Media and Chuck Modi touched on this in a recent interview on where Chuck touched being influenced by Ida B. Wells and her brave and unprecedented coverage of the lynchings in America.

Without objective, justice driven and truth seeking, diverse journalists Black people will continue to guilty at our own murder trials.

TMZ and other mainstream media outlets, do better and think of Black victims of crime with the same compassion and care as you do the White, powerful and privileged.

Media check your bias and people keep pushing them to do so…

Thank you for reading.

Writer, Founder WEOC and Editor of Writers and Editors of Color Mag Bylines in Zora, Momentum, An Injustice!, POM, Illumination, The Pink, and Better Marketing

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