I don’t make a habit of watching the channel that some call Fox News, since it’s not really news, it’s more like abuse.
Reports that have no connection with fact, opinions that are removed from reality, attacks on President Obama that reflect not partisan differences but personal contempt, are all fuel for the fire among those who offer all the news that is fit to distort. Fox News cultivates its devoted fan base by delivering "news" and outrage on the same plate, through a lens so biased there is no possibility of a level playing field.
Have you heard, for example, of the "knockout game" where young men have made sport of knocking out people for no reason, with no motive, just "for fun"? I’d read of it in the news, and more recently learned that a bicyclist in my neighborhood had been victim of the "game." Most who hear about the "game" find it inexplicably violent, especially when they learn that at least half a dozen deaths have resulted from "the game".
Race is not often mentioned when the game is discussed, but Fox has sensationalized the news, reporting (gasp) that the young men engaged in the game are Black and their victims are White. Fox hosts, with nearly identically outraged expressions, each "reported" that it is Black youth who are running around knocking people out. Their expressions and words suggest that they’ve been given a set of talking points, along with tips to impart their anger that nobody will say that the youth are Black youth. It is the liberal media, they allege, that are suppressing this story.
The Fox folks are not so outraged that racial dimensions of the unemployment rate are ignored. From their perspective, you can use "Black" as a pejorative, not as an informative. Without connecting the "knockout game" to high unemployment rates, it is worth noting that in one case, Fox makes race a headline, but in the case of high unemployment, race is hardly a footnote.
While some are celebrating an unemployment rate of 7 percent, African-Americans experience an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, officially, and at least 25 percent unofficially. Imagine news that had a Fox anchor gasping and saying, "the story the liberal media will not tell you is that one in eight African Americans (wink, gasp) is unemployed."
The fact is that neither the liberal nor the conservative media have been particularly interested in the employment status of African American people, even though it is more severe than that of the general population.
While Fox outrage seems confined to the racial aspects of the "knockout game", imagine the news tilt if the "stealing game" were properly covered. On the Monday before Christmas, a vice president of product development at the upscale Tiffany & Company was sentenced to just a year in prison and a year of supervised release for stealing more than $2 million dollars worth of jewelry from her company. Her heist included her boost of more than 165 pieces of jewelry – bracelets, earrings, rings and pendants, many of them diamond.
If Fox reported on this the way they report on the knockout game, they’d report, that "(gasp) and no one has reported that the crook was white and that this is part of an epidemic of white people taking things that do not belong to them." Or, they’d report that "many serve dozens of years for stealing much less and this is a story that the liberal media has suppressed."
Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, the 47-year-old White woman who stole millions of dollars has confessed to her crime and will not only serve jail time, but also forfeit her goodies and pay restitution. The US attorney says she will loose her liberty (gasp). Hundreds of thousands give up more liberty to have taken less. Under three-strikes laws, some have been sentenced to life imprisonment for infractions as minor as stealing food to eat. Most of them are poor. Should we gasp, shake our heads or organize against imperfect justice and the distorted images that emerge when race matters to complain but never to explain.
In other words, if you can use race to discuss the knockout game, use it to discuss the unemployment. Don’t pretend that all is equal when you know it is not. High Black youth unemployment does not at all excuse (or explain) the knockout game, but don’t claim to be race neutral when race matters enough to mention in some cases but not others. Furthermore, if you report "Black" crime, report "White crime" as well. A poor Black youth may get years, even life, for stealing a sandwich. A rich and entitled White woman gets a slap on the wrist and a year in jail for stealing $2 million.
It ain’t right, it ain’t fair, but it’s (gasp) Fox.
Julianne Malveaux is a DC based economist and writer, and President Emerita of Bennett College for Women.