Violence again erupted overnight in Charlotte, North Carolina, following a police shooting that left an armed black man dead.
But the national media is largely ignoring – or burying – a key fact about the case in order to fit Charlotte into a larger “trend” of racially charged cop shootings nationwide: the police officer involved in the Charlotte shooting was black.
The New York Times, for example, devotes hundreds of words to Keith L. Scott’s death, describing, in great detail, Scott’s encounter with police, the demeanor of strangers at his memorial, a Charlotte crime scene from Wednesday night’s riots, and what the Times luridly calls “a grim snapshot of America’s continuing crisis in black and blue” before mentioning briefly that the Charlotte police officer who killed Scott was also black.
And even that is a recent addition – late Wednesday night, the lengthy New York Times story made no mention of the officer’s race.
In the Washington Post, the revelation doesn’t come until almost the tenth paragraph, in a throwaway comment that also mentions that the cop, Brentley Vinson, is on administrative leave. Before then, the Post waxes poetic about North Carolina’s (alleged) history of racism, its voter identification laws, and even its recent “bathroom law” — which has nothing to do with cops or race.
The Associated Press account leaves a bare mention of the “black officer” until almost the very end, quoting the Charlotte police chief at a press conference. CBS News also quoted the press conference, but left out the detail about Vinson’s race until after the news outlet accused Charlotte of staging the Q&A in a desperate attempt to “change the narrative” surrounding the shooting.
Even the usually staid Wall Street Journal editorializes on the national crisis for several paragraphs before mentioning Vinson or his race – leaving it until well after a provocative description of Scott’s death, and his family’s reaction.
The simple fact that Officer Brentley Vinson is black makes the Charlotte incident very different from other recent police shootings — and raises serious questions about why so many members of Charlotte’s black community decided to engage in violent riots about racial justice with little ground for outrage. Officer Vinson’s race isn’t a throwaway detail – it’s an important factor that plays deeply into the story and challenges the media’s assumptions about police violence.
But the media is anxious to enforce a narrative — and to throw in anachronistic, derogatory references to the South. We know that many Northeastern editors and reporters crave the opportunity to cover a “new civil rights movement” akin to the one in the 1960s that so deeply influenced their professional mentors. And so they’re trying to create one where it doesn’t exist.
Charlotte is actually a very forward looking city. After all, this is the city whose gay rights ordinance sparked the state legislature to impose the notorious “bathroom bill”. Charlotte’s police department is almost 20 percent black (around the same proportion as in the North Carolina population). The police chief himself is black — and on Wednesday night was decrying the imposition of a national narrative that, as he put it, just didn’t fit. But that isn’t stopping the national media from sympathizing with violent rioters and characterizing a progressive, up-and-coming city as a racist stewpot.