I did a quick poll today, Sunday, of my Facebook friends to get an idea of just how many of them had heard that a 16 year-old African American boy was shot by NYPD last weekend and that riots broke out on the streets, with 46 people being arrested. Very few of my usually very well-informed social media buddies had heard a thing about the tragedy; those who had either lived in the New York City metro area or had come across information through social media. That brings us to the inevitable question, “Where’s the mainstream media coverage of this incident?”
It’s certainly a newsworthy event. While witnesses differ on opinion as to whether 16 year-old Kimani Gray was in possession of a gun, whether he aimed the gun at officers, whether the young man was adjusting his belt or whether he held his hands in plain sight, the fact remains that this boy was shot seven times by two plain clothes officers of the New York Police Department. There have been multiple days of protests, riots and unrest, and more than 40 people were arrested in relation to these protests. Why are so few people in this nation aware of these events? The answer is simple: because very few media sources, certainly not the mainstream media we rely on, have reported the tragedy. Does that seem a little odd to you? It seems completely odd, and wrong, to me.
Various sources across the internet speculate that a “frozen zone” has been enforced by NYPD in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn where the victim is from. Apparently, a frozen zone is an area in which police do not allow anyone, including media, to cross. Some consider it to be an area of martial law in which the police are the overarching, not-to-be-questioned authority. Others claim there is no longer a frozen zone in the neighborhood.
To me, the question still remains, “Where is the media?” There have been recent reports on MSNBC and CNN. I personally learned about the incident while watching Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC yesterday, and I’ve come across information about CNN finally picking up the story. Even if media reports are finally beginning to emerge, why the wait?
Could it be that the NYPD fears unpopular opinion on how they handled the shooting? According to reports, the atmosphere in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Kimani Gray is distrustful of police, particularly when not that long ago a young unarmed woman was shot by police near the neighborhood? Many worry that today’s climate of stop-and-frisk by police has led to police acting on prejudice and fear, with the heightened belief that their actions are beyond question. Not to mention that the names of the two police responsible for Gray’s death have recently been released, and both have been under investigation for abuse of authority, with the city paying out thousands of dollars in settlement costs.
No matter what the reason or reasons behind the media blackout on this case, the absence of coverage lends itself to questions. And these questions, I believe, have much larger societal implications that affect us all. Rest in peace, Kimani,and peace to the Gray family.