Racial Justice

Tags ››› Racial Justice
  • CNN’s Harry Houck Promotes Video Calling On Obama To “Ban Niggas”

    Video Claims “More People Murdered In A Day By Niggly Bears Than In A Year By Grizzly Bears”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck promoted a video that calls for President Obama to “ban niggas” in order to reduce violent crime, continuing Houck’s long history of peddling racist tropes about the African-American community.

    On July 25, Houck posted a link to a video on his Twitter account featuring Atlanta radio host and men’s rights activist Tommy Sotomayor, in which Sotomayor said that Obama should “ban niggas” because black men commit more violent crimes than other groups. Houck tweeted the video with the comment, “He knows what he’s talking about!”:

    Houck has used his platform on CNN to repeatedly suggest that African-Americans are prone to criminality and to blame black victims of police violence. Houck on Twitter has often warned about “black thugs,” referred to Black Lives Matter as a “thug group,” and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website.

    Houck continues to be employed as a law enforcement analyst by CNN. He most recently appeared during the the July 17 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, where he attempted to link the shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge to protests regarding the death of Alton Sterling.

  • Univision News Spotlights Latino Voters' Growing Concern Over Racial Discrimination

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision News highlighted cases of police brutality against Latinos that have received little media attention and reported that, amid demonstrations condemning police brutality against minorities, Latino voters are increasingly worried about racial discrimination, which experts believe is on the rise, due in part to "the normalization" of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric.

    In the July 13 article, Milli Legrain pointed to a poll showing that Latino voters’ concern over racial tension “has been increasing since 2012 and particularly in the last three months,” climbing from 4 percent to 10 percent. Experts who study trends in the Hispanic electorate have attributed much of this anxiety to “the normalization” of Trump’s “‘discrimination and anti-Latino discourse.’” The piece honored “5 young Hispanics [who] also died by the hands of police between July 3 and July 7,” noting that this news was “less reported.” This lack of visibility for Hispanic victims of police brutality is representative of a pattern in the media to “silo” Latino issues to solely immigration and ignore other issues that may be pertinent to them.

    Legrain carefully distinguished between the unique obstacles that burden each minority group, explaining that "although discrimination against minorities manifests itself in different ways, there seems to be a point of overlap between the different racial communities of the country." She highlighted efforts by groups such as the Black and Brown United Coalition to organize and unite blacks and Latinos against racial discrimination, and concluded that “what is clear is that inflammatory discourses of Donald Trump, police violence, and discriminatory policies are contributing to placing the theme of race at the center of the electorate debate.” Translated from the Univision News July 13 report:

    In 2012, the election year where Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney, only 4% of those surveyed saw race as the most important issue. But for the past three months, the issues of discrimination and race have been a concern of 10% of the Latinos surveyed.


    Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, an organization that promotes civic participation among Latinos in the U.S., explains this trend with the attacks Donald Trump has levied on the Hispanic community.

    Sylvia Manzano, an expert in Political Science and one of the higher-ups at Latino Decisions, is in agreement on this: “Discrimination and the anti-Latino discourse are on the rise and Trump is the leader of that. When you hear him say that he wants to build a wall, and his supporters respond that Mexico is going to pay for it, you are more sensitive to that kind of discourse if you areLatino,” Manzano explains.

    According to the expert, the “normalization” of the discourse fans the flames of discrimination.


    One piece of news less reported is that 5 young Hispanics who also died by the hands of police between July 3 and July 7. According to the Killed by Police database that monitors deaths caused by law enforcement, there have already been 100 Hispanics killed in interactions with the police in 2016 in the United States.


    Although discrimination against minorities manifests itself in different ways, there seems to be a point of overlap between the different racial communities of the country.

    What is clear is that Donald Trump’s inflammatory discourses, police violence, and discriminatory policies are contributing to placing the theme of race at the center of the electorate debate.

  • How News Networks Criminalize Black Victims Of Police Violence

    News Networks Reported Alton Sterling's Death By Highlighting His Criminal Record, Mugshot

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    News networks reporting on the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by a police officer in Baton Rouge highlighted Sterling’s prior criminal record and displayed his mugshot from a former arrest, reinforcing tropes about black criminality that have long tainted media coverage of instances of police violence.

    On July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by Baton Rouge, LA, police outside of a convenience store. Video of the incident shows Sterling pinned to the ground by two officers, seemingly unable to move. After one officer yells “he’s got a gun,” an officer aims his gun at Sterling’s chest and shoots him several times at near point-blank range.

    The shooting has prompted the opening of a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice and has generated widespread media coverage. But in their reporting on the shooting, many news networks chose to highlight Sterling’s criminal history -- including displaying his mugshot from a prior arrest -- without explaining why that information was relevant to Sterling’s death.

    Sterling’s criminal record is not evidence that police were justified in shooting him -- having a criminal record is not grounds for being shot by police. Nor is it evidence that Sterling, who was pinned down when he was killed, posed a threat to police. That information is irrelevant to the police officer’s decision to shoot Sterling.

    But the media practice of depicting black victims of police violence as criminals is well documented. News outlets regularly use mugshots to depict black victims and highlight black victims’ criminal histories, even when those histories have nothing at all to do with the stories they’re reporting.

    This kind of coverage reinforces dangerous and racist tropes about black criminality, and it makes audiences naturally hostile toward black victims. If you depict a black victim as a criminal or “thug” with an arrest record, it’s easier to believe that police were justified in killing them. If your first impression of Sterling is that he’s a sex offender with a criminal history, you’re less likely to view him as a victim, regardless of the details surrounding his death.

    Conservative media are far less subtle when they call upon these tropes -- right-wing news outlets have a long history of demonizing and blaming black victims of police violence, even when facing clear evidence of police wrongdoing.

    The same thing is happening in the case of Sterling, whose criminal record has already been used to suggest that he was “no gentle giant.”

    In a news conference hours after the shooting, Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s oldest son, told reporters that Sterling “is not what the mass media is making him out to be.” Unfortunately, many viewers who watched initial coverage of the shooting won’t be able to forget the dehumanizing and misleading image of Sterling that news outlets created.

  • The New York Post Suddenly Silent After NYPD Muslim Surveillance Found To Be A Bust

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    After months of berating the Associated Press over its investigation of the New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance program, the New York Post is suddenly tongue-tied. Following an article by the Associated Press which found that the six-year NYPD program has not yielded a single terrorism investigation, the paper hasn't published a single piece of coverage of the AP story. 

    The Associated Press uncovered the admission on August 21st:

    In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday

    The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. [...]

    But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.

    "Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."

    It's not surprising that the NY Post is not covering the issue, given that it goes against the pro-surveillance narrative the paper has been trying to push for over a year. For example, in an editorial on November 22, 2011, the NY Post declared, "New Yorkers should be thankful that its police department has been collecting information and conducting surveillance of Muslim communities." After all, they noted on December 26, "there is very good reason why anti-terror investigations often lead to the Muslim-American community." The Post's editorial board penned pieces defending the program on February 13March 14March 22March 30, and April 17.

    In June, a Post editorial baselessly alleged that the Muslim surveillance program "led to the arrests of several would-be terrorists." In July, the editorial board got more specific, claiming that, "the NYPD's Intel Unit has had a sterling record since it was established in the wake of 9/11, helping disrupt 14 terrorist plots against the city in the last decade."

    The commanding officer of the NYPD "Intel Unit" would seem to disagree that the Muslim surveillance tactic played a role:

    "I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I'm here since 2006," he said. "I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that's always a possibility. I am not aware of any."

    While the Post editorial board has never really been one for facts, failing to report a news piece that goes against your narrative takes pushing misinformation one step further. 

    UPDATE: The New York Post editorial board finally weighed in on August 26, largely utilizing semantic arguments against the Associated Press and failing entirely to rebut Galati's admissions that the surveillance program is ineffective. Many Post readers, however, were left with only one side of the story. As of August 28, a full week after the story broke, the paper's straight news sections had still not reported on Galati's testimony.

  • NY Post Frequently Exploits Shooting Victims To Push Pro-'Stop-And-Frisk' Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    With facts and statistics staring down the New York Post's attempted defenses of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk agenda, the Post has been forced to resort to purely emotional appeals in their attempt to maintain public support for the policy.

    Over the past few months, the New York Post has published several news pieces dedicated to interrogating the friends and family members of recent New York City shooting victims. Each story features someone emotionally close to the case speculating about whether ramping up the New York Police Department's controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy could have saved their loved ones' lives. Meanwhile, the Post's editorial page has been littered with hyperbole and graphic imagery -- fear mongering designed to scare readers into believing that ending stop-and-frisk will result in "more blood in the streets."

    Several recent interviews in the news section of the New York Post have followed the above theme. Given the unconditional support for stop-and-frisk expressed by the Post's editors over past months, it's difficult to view these stories as anything more than an effort to exploit the raw emotions of their subjects in order to push the paper's political objectives in a "straight news" format. One example, from the New York Post on July 19, was an interview with a mother whose teenage son was shot and killed in July:

    The grieving mother of a 15-year-old student who was shot in the head and died last week told The Post police should stop and frisk every person on the streets in order to stem increasing gun violence.

    "My son is gone because of an illegal gun on the street," said Natasha Christopher, whose eldest son, Akeal, died on his birthday.

    "If they had frisked the person who killed my son, it would have been one less gun on the streets. I'm for it," she declared.