Thursday, August 29, 2002

Chased Out Of Town

The Commercial Appeal has yet another story on the weekend shooting involving a retiree and two teen home invaders. One of the teens ended up dead. Today's story comes with fear headline ("We Are Scared") and a large picture of a moving van and a guard with prominent gun.

The family has vacated the house after someone put three bullets through a window early Monday morning. Once again, the CA identifies the man by complete address. This follows previous stories where they identified him by name, street address (with map!), subdivision and connecting street.

With all the fear-mongering they're doing and all the identifying they're doing, why have they left out one crucial piece of information? The man was white and his intruders were black. The neighborhood he lives in is a white suburb that's now white retirees and young blacks. In the neighborhood, there's tremendous animosity against him for "killing a brother." It puts a very different spin on the CA's story, one that the CA has left implicit for inexplicable reasons.

I made a point this morning to listen to WDIA's Bobby O'Jay and the Fun Morning Show. Sure enough, the shooting was Topic A. And sure enough, more information came out than is found in the CA, and not only what I pointed out above.

Callers were, surprisingly, very sympathetic to the homeowner. They mostly agreed that the shooting was unfortunate, but not his fault. Some callers added that after the events described in the CA's story, where a guard was hired to watch the property as the family moved out hurriedly, that many young men gathered nearby, making threats and threatening gestures. It was nervous-making enough that the guard called the Memphis Police, who ended up blocking off the street!

Callers also were pretty adamant that the drive-by shooting early Monday was likely the beginning of reprisals from the dead youth's gang. It was widely believed that the youths were gang members who had been casing the house, and not just opportunistic crackheads.

Host Bobby O'Jay tried to peddle the idea that the homeowner's reaction was a release of pent-up racial anger. He used the actuality of the changing neighborhood to suppose that the homeowner was angry at the new culture sprung up around him and that when he saw the two criminals he allowed his anger to explode into gunfire. It's a pretty cheap move on O'Jay's part, one not supported by the homeowner's story:
"On July Fourth, I slept with my gun because there were so many guys outside in front of my house setting off firecrackers," he said.

"I didn't know what could happen. I was scared that night and I was scared Sunday and last night....

"[On the night of the drive-by] we spent the night huddled together in the hall afraid to move."
That's not the reactions of an angry man, but a fearful one.

This whole story is being pushed by the CA in a strange way. They're not reporting the lynchpin of the story -- the white/black dynamic -- although had this story been about a black homeowner it wouldn't likely be getting this kind of work up, much less front page. It would be buried in the "Metro Briefs" section in the back.

But they are really playing up the fear and the "justifiable homicide" aspect of shooting home invaders. I suspect some of this is a follow-on to the Rosamond shootings (where six children died and three more people were wounded by drug-dealing teens). But this is also the reason for white flight from the City and for white derision of the black community made flesh, and waved in your face by the CA. There's a disconnect here that I can't quite hit.

The irony comes on the second page, where the story jumps. The story head is "Shooting" and the story right next to it is labelled "Justified."

"Shooting Justified." Subliminal editorial comment or sloppy editing?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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