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A Dangerous And Dishonest View Of Mass Violence

Jacqueline Jackson |
September 19, 2013 | 10:10 a.m. PDT

What if every act of gun violence received the kind of attention mass shootings did? (MDGovpics, Creative Commons)
What if every act of gun violence received the kind of attention mass shootings did? (MDGovpics, Creative Commons)
Monday morning, the United States saw yet another mass shooting. The Navy Yard shooting occurred only 2.5 miles away from the White House, shocking the nation and reminding citizens that nowhere in America is safe from gun violence.

Since President Obama took office in 2008, Americans have witnessed at least 19 mass shootings. All received exclusive media coverage, a type of coverage that has yet to occur when violence takes the lives of youth in minority communities across the nation. 

It is clear that in America you are in danger simply by living out your daily life. But it seems not all tragedies are newsworthy. 

You can get shot at: the mall, the grocery store, K-12 institutions, college campuses, in your neighborhood or while visiting a friend, on an army base or in the Navy Yard. The issue lies everywhere, but while the government and media seem extremely concerned about bridging the gap between social status and social wellbeing, their concern has been a fading reality for members of communities nationwide who see this type of violence on a weekly basis. The media instead chooses not to cover these shootings and only highlight specific events, ultimately masking the importance of attending to gun violence in America. Every shooting is tragic and the media's framing of multiple shooting events brings to question: why aren’t all shootings receiving the same attention, coverage and outcry for solutions?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 105 American’s commit suicide daily. Each week, there are at least 30 gun-related murders and over 100 gun-related injuries. These murders and acts of gun violence are exactly what the media doesn’t cover. The media is selective about what events in America are framed as “national tragedies” or “mass shootings.” In order to provide honest media, news corporations should focus on the overall issue of gun control and the various lives that are affected by gun violence, mental health and posttraumatic stress in this nation every day. Due to the lack of coverage of these tragedies, Americans cannot decipher how crucial it is to take immediate action against gun violence. 

But the media isn’t covering these deaths—because there is a normalcy placed upon the loss of minority lives in America that stems back hundreds of years. This issue is deeply embedded in the fabric of America, in its racist past, stereotypical ideologies and love for capitalism. 

This issue has a direct link to how the economic and social status of a community affects the value placed upon the lives of the people who live there. In Chicago, for example, over 300 people have been killed this year but there has been minimal coverage. If shootings were to occur every weekend in Beverly Hills and the death toll began to rise as stray bullets took children, the outcry would be different. Parents, community leaders, elected officials and maybe even top members of government would be called on to quickly resolve the growing environment of violence in one of America's richest and best-known cities. When dozens are killed in America's poorest city, however, people are called, but when they respond, they are quick to talk, but slow to act.

In the Sandy Hook shooting, for example, 28 people were killed of which 20 were children. This loss of life was a direct result of one man, multiple guns and a lack of preparation on the institution’s part. Yet, the teachers could never have predicted such a crime would occur and as much as the tragedy deserves to become one of the focal points in our ongoing gun legislation discussions, there's also the fact that youth will die from gun violence each week in America and never be heard of. One mass shooting should not be the discussion; it should reignite the passion to push for increased action against the ongoing gun violence that occurs throughout the nation. However, this cannot occur without the media communicating the lives that are lost. 

The victims of Sandy Hook were predominately Caucasian, in a small town with a median household income of over $100,000 as of 2011. Thus, the reaction was different. Not only were children lost, but they were lost in a community where they should have been safe. Yet, as we have learned time and again, nowhere in America, regardless of your level of affluence, is safe.

For decades, the issue of gun violence has been swept under the rug and only discussed when incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting, Sandy Hook, Chicago's Deadly Weekends and Aurora occur. Thus, the discussion is only presented for a short period of time and never becomes a permanent piece of the government's agenda. The government seems to get away with making speeches, proposing legislation and assembling task forces, all of which lead to no real change in America’s most vulnerable communities. As quickly as the government created the War on Drugs and the War on Gang Violence, it must create a war against poverty and community violence. 

There should be no place in America where your zip code increases your risk of death due to gun violence. Yet, that is the case. These mass shootings are merely a reflection of the mass killings that have been going on in this country for decades. In order for the deaths of thousands of minority youth from gun violence—and hundreds more from mass shootings—to not be in vain, the government must be held accountable for these deaths and its lack of commitment to shifting America’s wealth gap. This can only happen when the media, which initially was created for the people, honestly reflects the lives of pain, grief and devastation that many citizens live across America. There needs to be a solid plan created to end poverty in this country and funds must be set aside to effectively deal with youth and families who suffer from post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses. 

The government must uphold its constitution and ensure not only that our nation allows for equal opportunities but also that there is a way to build cohesive communities with designated mental health assistance where needed, not where it can be afforded. But until the media covers all the shootings in America together there will not be legislation and movements in unison. This design must change or Americans will continually wake up and come home to mass shootings. 


Reach Contributor Jacqueline Jackson here; follow her here.



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