The media is in a tough spot. Well, we have put ourselves in a tough spot. And by “we,” I mean every journalist or news outlet that has attempted to cover or editorialize the events happening in Ferguson.
If you address the race factor, then you are criticized for assuming unknown facts of the case or using institutionalized racial disparities to sensationalize the narrative. If you don’t address race, then you are accused of contributing to the ignorance that has fueled police brutality and criticized for ignoring an issue that justifies every ounce of riot that has transpired.
And then, whether you mention race or not, you might still be accused of giving too much prominence to the potential for violence and not enough to the decision itself. Or vice versa.
Even the President is caught in this two-faced conundrum. In his statement the Tuesday after it was announced Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting of Michael Brown, Obama condemned violence and looting while acknowledging the legitimate concerns animating the protesters.
It’s tempting to take a side like we do in so many other ways every day (political parties, sports teams, whether Taylor Swift is annoying or not, etc.). For some, it’s easy to sympathize with the looter and car-burners and for others, that’s very difficult to do. It’s easy to sympathize with Michael Brown’s family who wanted a trial for entirely understandable reasons. But it’s not so easy to sympathize those who are elevating Brown to sainthood and heroism, while knowing he robbed a convenience store. You can practically take a side to anything thing in this narrative.
But the problem that both sides are guilty of is thinking they have a clear and obvious message. The mainstream news outlets, no matter what stance they’re taking, claim to offer a simple explanation. It’s all about race or it has nothing to do with race.
They interview their experts, their lawyers and their politicians and they all talk about the dirty smudges happening to a shiny America behind their shiny news desks.
That’s not how Americans live their lives everyday. They don’t have theories or concepts with clear cut solutions. Normal everyday life is messy and it’s one huge gray area, and Ferguson just won best mess of all. So give the media a break, or take their word with a grain of salt, or do both. At least until they figure out how to cover messy.