Black lives don’t matter: why stories of death on the streets rarely get told

Source: The Guardian Unlimited

The expectation that the poor and dark in America will have their lives cut short renders them invisible

‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” But over the past few years I have wondered if there might not be an addendum to that adage – a qualifying footnote to what seems like the obvious.

Because there are things that happen with such regularity and predictability that journalists have simply ceased to recognise their news value – not least if those things are least likely to happen to the people most likely to be journalists.

Because much of what we have come to accept as commonplace has dulled our curiosity as to why so much of what is commonplace is unacceptable.

Because there is value in asking “Why do dogs keep biting people?”; “Who owns these dogs?”; and “Why do the same people keep getting bitten?”

The growing political and economic inequalities, both within nations and between them, is not only replicated in journalism but is increasingly being amplified by it. The upshot is an elite consensus, episodically shattered by the intrusion of more democratic forms of new technology but never ultimately displaced.

I’m going to make the case for why this matters, primarily with reference to the United States, since that is where I have been reporting for the past 12 years. But I am confident that the over-arching points work as well in the United Kingdom or almost anywhere else in the western world.

Because given the prevailing and escalating inequalities and inequities we simply do not occupy the same worlds we pretend to cover – even when those worlds are right on our doorstep.

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