George Floyd, like the countless African American men and women before him, was mercilessly tortured and killed publicly by police officers. As this sad and unfortunate news makes the rounds all over the news and social media worldwide, I’m paying close attention to how various news networks are covering this tragedy. The words used in headlines are very important when covering these types of stories. Many of these news channels are carefully choosing their words to try to downplay what took place—the murder of yet another African American man.
Police brutality against African Americans is an obvious injustice and oppression but so is the media downplaying this oppression and injustice by white police officers. And of course this is not the first time nor will it be the last time this tactic will be employed by national news channels and networks. If you pay attention to the headlines in the news coverage and the words they use, you’ll see they purposely use vague words to describe the horrendous crimes committed by police officers.
A headline such as “Large Protests Over George Floyd’s Death” is problematic. It was not just a natural death. He was murdered. Why not call it what it is? A better headline would have been, Large Protests Over the Killing of George Floyd! We all know if it was the other way around and a black person did what that cop did, every headline would be plastered with the words, Murder of Officer. Many of the news networks don’t want to label these tragedies for what it is: Murder, Killing, and torture. They would rather say, “Death.” And, “police involvement.”
What these news outlets are doing is softening the crimes police are committing. It’s trying to distance the police from their actions when it comes to African American victims. It’s not “involvement” when police murder innocent African American men, women and children. George Floyd like the rest of the other black men, boys and women was tortured and killed, by pinning him to the floor, and cutting off his oxygen by police officers—news coverage needs to reflect this.
I’ve taken a few screenshots of several different news headlines of the recent killing of George Floyd and you’ll see that not one has the words killing or murder in their headlines.
Compare that with when Somali-American, ex-police officer, Mohamed Noor, shot an Australian woman, Justine Damond couple years ago. The words used in the news coverage involving the black ex-officer are completely different. Here are some of the headlines you’ll find if you do a simple Google search:
“She called 911 and was shot by an officer. Now, a jury will decide if the shooting was justified.”
“Bride-to-be killed by cop after calling 911 (2017).”
“Minneapolis woman killed by police: What we know and don’t know.”
“A 911 Call, an Unarmed Woman and a Single Shot: The Mystery of a Police Shooting.”
“Family Asks: Why Did Minneapolis Police Kill Australian 911 Caller?”
“Woman Shot by Minneapolis Officer ‘Didn’t Have to Die,’ Police Chief Says.”
“Woman killed by Minneapolis officer ‘yearned to help people’”
And this is what former Minnesota congresswoman, Michele Backmann said in regards to the incident involving Mohamed Noor.
“Was Noor acting like the Muslim religious police, maintaining strict adherence to keeping women’s bodies covered when he shot Justine?” Was he acting from a cultural instinct?”
The bias is obvious. The way George Floyd was killed is much more graphic and gruesome yet we find very little descriptive words used in the headlines about his murder. We see the word “death” used repeatedly by the media coverage when it comes to the killing of George Floy. However, in the shooting of Justine Damond, you can see that headlines not only use the word “Kill,” consistently, the words used paint a clear image. “Woman killed by Minneapolis officer ‘yearned to help people” not only vilifies the officer but it simultaneously highlights the woman’s love of helping people. Reading such headlines naturally draws in people’s sympathy for the victim.
Did George Floyd not have one good thing about him that could have been used to highlight in their headlines? Furthermore, why aren’t any of these headlines describing how he was murdered? The fact that he was killed? It’s truly sickening hearing about the killings of African Americans by the police week after week; It is also disappointing and frustrating that news media choose to be biased against African American victims when covering the brutalities and killings police commit against them.