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Reporting On Race
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September 16, 2005, 02:23 AM
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Jay Nordlinger prints an email he got in his column on National Review Online

Jay,

Why is it that everything has to be racialized? Here`s the headline over an Associated Press story: "Texas Black Woman Scheduled for Execution." "Texas Black Woman"? Why not just "Texas Woman"? She murdered her family. What does her race have to do with it?

I`m afraid Jay gets a little carried away with this color-blind thing. While Justice should be color-blind, crime reporting needn`t be. The NAACP certainly claims they see a link between race and the death penalty.

But reporters not only "racialize" capital punishment, for political effect, they "de-racialize" crime.

Frances Newton killed her husband and her two small children for the insurance money in 1987.

I was able to track down the 1987-88 headlines about the murder in the Houston Chronicle`s archive and none of them said anything like "Black Woman Kills Her Whole Family." They said nothing about here race at all.

They said as follows

  • Woman charged in shooting deaths of husband, 2 children
  • Mom stood to benefit, says agent/Murder trial lists insurance policies
  • Wife admits hiding gun, denies killing mate, two children
  • Woman convicted in killing husband, her two children
  • Jury finds woman guilty in deaths of husband, kids
  • Jury gives Newton death in slayings of her family

So, you see, the press can avoid racializing things: it just depends on the outcome they`re trying to achieve.