‘It’s Racism!’

Could it be any clearer that the mainstream media actively wants to divide the country and make us hate one another? How else to explain that they are constantly running stories like this at the top of their website front pages?

Outraged! Racism! Remove these officers from the force! Investigation! Apology!

But if you want to believe the headline, don’t watch the video. And if you do watch, be sure to keep the sound up so you can hear how you are supposed to understand it.

What do you see in the video, objectively? Two male teens fighting, and the fight being broken up by two police officers, who handle the chaos in a decisive way that has nothing demonstrable to do with any racial animus and that results in no physical harm, arrests, or charges to either teen.

But CNN is here, of course, to make sure you won’t see the video absent the correct underlying narrative. They want to help you penetrate below what your eyes see to what they think is really going on. 

According to the narrator, it’s obvious that the white teen is the aggressor. This is the implied narrative: whites are always looking to violently attack blacks, who are always innocent and defensive victims of that aggression. But the video evidence is more complicated. The white teen points his finger at the black teen, but he does not touch him. The black teen is the one who first initiates physical contact by shoving the white teen’s hand aside. The white teen responds to this by pushing the black teen. The black teen is the first one to throw punches and, in this footage at least, he throws many more punches than the white teen does. 

Who is the aggressor, then? Not clear how you’d easily determine that from this, though if by “aggressor” you mean “the one who initiated physical contact,” then your answer is not the one CNN gives. To get a better perspective, we would need to know more about what happened prior to the finger-pointing. CNN tells us the black teen claims he was protecting another kid from the white teen. Notably, CNN does not give us the white teen’s perspective. That is not an accidental omission. It is in keeping with the narrative.

The CNN narrator then says the white teen tackled the black teen and then threw him to the ground. What happened by the evidence in the video is that the black teen began to throw punches after the white teen’s shove and the latter closed the distance between them to take away the black teen’s punching ability, driving him backward into the couch. Then both wound up falling to the floor. As they were getting up to continue the fight, the black teen lost his balance and fell. 

As to the police stoppage of the fight, the narrative of endless racist violence against blacks shapes the CNN account entirely, when more obvious explanations fit the video evidence and common sense better. How much of the difference in how the two teens were taken under control is accounted for by the fact that one officer here is male and one female, and the female is the one who treated the participant in the brawl she had to deal with less aggressively—though notably only after her male partner had physically separated the fighters by shoving them apart? Males are more aggressive than females, and that includes male police officers. 

It is not clear from the video if the black teen struggled at all with the officer, and perhaps the officer used more force than needed to subdue him. It would be invaluable to hear the accounts of the officers involved to get more insight into how things happened. There is no obvious reason, though, to imagine that the officers made the decision only to handcuff one because of his race. Are we to believe that the male officer made the split-second decision that he was going to leave the white teen to his female partner because he wanted a chance to tackle the black teen? If their physical positions had been reversed and the black teen had been closer to the female officer and thus easier for the male officer to push in her direction, I would not feel at all confident betting the white teen, left to the male officer, wouldn’t have gotten the handcuff treatment, especially if he resisted. 

The question of unnecessary escalation by police is a legitimate one in some settings. But the matter is contextual. What else do officers know about the scene in which this is taking place? Have other mall fights in that area in the recent past involved weapons? Did those reporting to police suggest the fight was more serious than it was? We don’t know any of that, and we would need to hear from the police to learn it. But the narrative says police are always racist and blacks are always innocent victims of police racism. 

CNN does not give us the perspective of police or the white teen, but they sprint right over to the local NAACP for their insights. In their analysis, the white teen was comfortably shown a seat by police. It is clear in the video that, after the fighters were thrown apart by the male officer, the white teen fell back onto the couch purely because of his position relative to it, and the female officer ascertained quickly that he was pacified and turned to help her colleague with the other teen. The NAACP perspective is useless if your effort is to understand. But the narrative is never about understanding. It’s about making reality fit the preconceived conception.

Here’s something I do feel safe betting on: if, when more facts come in, the narrative presented by CNN turns out looking more questionable than it already does after an objective look at the video, there will be no correction of the record. They will just rely on the public to forget the case and then eagerly move on to the next thing they can bend and twist to the narrative. 

About Alexander Riley

Alexander Riley is a professor of sociology at Bucknell University and a senior fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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