The "Reverend Doctor" Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, has recently made the news with 2-1/2 year old comments* he made about Natalee Holloway. Wright believes that the U.S. media is biased, preferring to cover white victims of crime over black victims. I suspect this is "news" only because he is Senator Barack Obama's pastor. Politicians are always looking to see what they can dredge up on their opponents, and pundits are always looking for something new to talk about.
This morning, a local radio station cited Jeremiah Wright's comments and asked for callers to discuss whether they thought black leaders might get by with racist comments that would get white leaders in trouble for being racists. Here are the statements by Wright which they referenced: "Black women are being raped daily in Darfur, Sudan, in the Congo and in Sub-Saharan Africa. That doesn't make news. One 18-year-old white girl from Alabama gets drunk on a graduation trip to Aruba, goes off and 'gives it up' while in a foreign country, and that stays in the news for months!"
Here are several thoughts that come to my mind:
Why did Wright only mention black women that are being raped in Darfur, Sudan, the Congo and Sub-Saharan Africa? What about black women being raped right here in the United States? (Maybe he did and we just don't have the whole quote). Is he biased against American black women? I do not condone an Alabama teen getting drunk on a graduation trip to Aruba and 'giving it up' (which some reports seem to indicate happened), but that nevertheless gives no one the right to rape or murder her.
But Wright does have a point. What is it about this one case that has captured the fancy of the news media while hundreds of others never receive the first mention? Our family's experience with the disappearance of my mother-in-law makes us acutely aware that some stories are just "more important" than others. Despite repeated attempts to grasp someone's attention, her story has gone mostly unreported and underreported by all except local media. Perhaps media also has a bias against elderly white Alzheimer's patients.
Now, I may not be too up-to-date, but I don't altogether have my head in the sand either. I realize the news is about what grasps folks’ attention. But perhaps it is more about what grasps the attention of the media than what grasps the attention of "real people".
Ultimately, I don't know why some stories get the attention of the media and others do not. There may be a racial element to it. Since I am aware of numerous stories of whites that also didn't make the media grade, I have trouble believing that is the main element. There also may be a young element to it. There may be a pretty element to it. There may be a “scandal” element to it. Even Ellen DeGeneres' dog was a bigger story than black women being raped in Darfur, Sudan, the Congo and Sub-Saharan Africa; women being raped right here in the U.S.; or the tens of thousands of missing persons in the United States. What is reported and what is not reveals something about the media's biases more than about the average person. Most of the "real people" with whom I rub shoulders day to day have the capacity to follow a story about a missing and presumed murdered 18 year old, whether she be black, white, Hispanic or otherwise -- as well as to sympathize with the family in their loss.
We are glad for the family of Natalee Holloway that their plight can be known. We also wish the same for others.
* From the August 2005 edition of Trumpet Magazine, a publication of his Trinity United Church of Christ. This recent information appears to emanate from Obama's pastor disses Natalee Holloway, on World Net Daily, January 27, 2008