By Glenn Brown
One hundred. Million. Dollars.
This figure gazed back at me as I read a breaking story on CNN.com last week. Hidden between Trump’s impeachment hearings and celebrity news was a story involving George Zimmerman and a $100 million lawsuit against Trayvon Martin’s family. I was shocked at the mere thought of such action being taken, especially from a man who’d been under the fire in the media for so long. He just seemed to be catching a break.
I was truly taken aback, however, when I returned to the news site a mere three hours later. As I scrolled through the front page of the website, I was unable to find this “breaking” story that had only been released a number of hours ago. It had disappeared from my front page. As I continued to search through this website for the headline, I began to wonder why the story had disappeared so quickly, and, after some time pondering this question and researching, I finally reached an answer: people don’t really care anymore. Looking back, I have seen a number of cases that were all too similar to Trayvon Martin’s. An unarmed Black man is shot by the police. The police officer faces minimal-to-no consequences. Life goes on as if it never happened. What would be the point of reading it? We all know how these things go.
The constant repetition of these stories really exemplifies why this particular one disappeared so quickly. We’ve become numb to these occurrences. We have lost interest in them. We’d rather be looking at something that we haven’t seen before, or what our favorite celebrities are up to. Police brutality, however, is simply old news that most people no longer want to read about or listen to.
Thankfully, there is a way in which we can present these crucial issues without boring the audience or repeating the same framework for every Black man killed: we show them together. A prominent human rights scholar, Judith Butler, wrote about this concept in a broader manner, but it could be of great use in the fight against police brutality in America.
In her writings, Butler describes the idea that in order to promote change, a successful “performance” must convey bodies as relational in order to create a congregational space, as single bodies cannot achieve this and thus will never create an equally powerful change. In other words, in order to make any sort of progress, we must show these bodies together, in an alliance against a specific cause. With individuals, this progress will not and cannot happen.
In part, this concept seems to address the issue at hand and provide a feasible solution to it. However, one cannot go without questioning the role of the media itself in this battle for attention to the issues that truly matter.
With celebrities getting married, having cheating scandals, and releasing new make-up and clothing lines, the news seems to have lost focus on problems like police brutality that are consistently harming innocent people all around the nation. Rather than focus on issues that may be thought- provoking or of true societal value, outlets today give the spotlight to other topics that generate more views or clicks. But the blame for this poor media focus is partly on viewers as well. As we continue to focus on these non- important headlines, the media has no true reason to focus on issues that would earn them less following or website activity.
As a people, we need to unite and ensure that news outlets focus on issues that are affecting our society at an unprecedented level. Start clicking on things that truly matter, and, one day, the news will begin to focus on those topics and less on new dance crazes or TikTok stars.
Glenn Brown is a current student at Columbia University and a graduate of Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City, MD.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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