The Las Vegas mass shooting and killing by Stephen Paddock resulting in 58 deaths and hundreds of injured individuals is a horrific event in our history. The media’s focus on the motive of the killer and the whitewashing of Paddock committing the crime loses the point. There are no good motives for killing anyone—let alone over 50 persons. Any killer who kills innocent persons while perched from a high-rise luxury hotel shooting them down as if he were playing a video game, is not a good person. Much of the media has gone out of the way to paint Paddock as a regular white guy. I can’t but help to think how the media would have addressed the killer if he or she were Black, Muslim or both.
Every possible good trait known about Paddock has been mentioned. From being prescribed Valium to being a high stakes gambler and an apparently wealthy individual with a girlfriend, the media has struggled to make sense out of his killing rage. Contrasting the depictions of a good white male figure with how the media describes Black or Muslim killers and victims makes me what to scream out loud.
Assumptions of a bad actor are the routine media response when describing even Black victims, particularly when shot and killed by whites. Trayvon Martin was said to be “up to no good;” Ditto for Michael Brown who was shot and killed in Ferguson. The media went out of its way to find anything bad associated with Michael Brown. Media accused Brown of a robbery before police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. The alleged robbery had nothing to do with Darren Wilson shooting Brown. Freddie Gray was portrayed as a criminal instead of the six officers who were on trial for his murder. Eric Garner was portrayed as a criminal selling loose cigarettes illegally instead of a victim gasping for air while being unlawfully choked to death.
And for Muslims who are involved in killings, there is never any semblance of the media looking into the individual’s life for anything good. Media almost always looks for everything that a Muslim did wrong, any association with ISIS and coming to this country illegally, if they immigrated here.
But when the white mainstream media looks at a white guy killer, like Paddock, they see themselves and wonder how it could happen. As a former prosecutor, there is never a good reason for a murder or why someone kills and plans a vicious attack on hundreds of innocent individuals. So, please stop trying to find out why or how a good white guy went bad. Or in the reverse, look for the same good traits when reporting about Black and Muslim victims and killers. It is a two-way street—if you care to look both ways.
And while you’re looking down the two-way black and white street, make sure that Black history is not erased in the coverage. First, the killing of 58 persons in Las Vegas was not the largest mass killing in modern U. S. history—as inaccurately rolled on many network chyrons and stated by anchors. The largest U.S. killing occurred on the early morning hours of June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. White Tulsa police officers deputized other whites to attack innocent Blacks for what they believed was an attack on a white woman by a black man. In the vicious killing, burning and raping that followed of an entire town of 10,000 Blacks, 300 Black persons were killed; 4000 were captured and placed in jail and thousands more left and never returned. The area was known as the “Negro Wall Street” in 1921 due to wealthy Blacks residing there. And while some may ask, why is this important at a time like the Vegas shooting? It is always important to never forget history—and particularly to refrain from erasing Black history.
And lastly let’s remember that all Black is not bad and all white is not good. And Stephen Paddock was not good—at all. He was pure evil. He was a domestic terrorist. So please let’s stop trying to make him out to be a very good white guy gone bad. He was rotten to the core—his white skin and all.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor. She frequently appears on MSNBC, CBS News, PBS, Fox 5 DC and Al Jazeera. Her opinion articles appear in the Washington Post Huffington Post and Baltimore Sun.