The Oregon Numbing Gap

Yesterday’s shooting in Oregon prompted a flurry of posts across my social media. Some advocated gun control yet again and some decried the lack of mental health treatment yet again. There was someone out there with a gun, shooting at any available target. And the someone turned out to be white, male, and possibly mentally ill, yet again.

(photo from politico.com) news

When my husband got home we started on our nighttime conversation. Usually we discuss lots of things – his day, mine, things that need doing, stuff in the news. Yes, we discussed the shooting in Oregon. And then I asked him if his students, his high school age students, said anything about it. His answer was no. No? La la la…I can’t hear you?                                                                                       no news (photo from tarasblog.com)

Then it hit me. These kids saw shootings or heard about shootings closer to home all the time. They talked about those shootings, but the news almost never carried stories about them. Sometimes local news carries a story about a shooting involving the cops, or a couple’s quarrel gone violent. But national news never carried the stories about shootings they saw because they didn’t feel the same way that the witnesses to the shooting in Oregon did.

The tweets from Oregon were full of fright, horror and disbelief. My husband’s students would be “lol’ing” at each other and saying yeah, so and so got knocked off, are you going to the funeral? And they wouldn’t be on Twitter,they would be using texting.

There’s the gap. What’s being reported on versus what isn’t. And why. The raw emotions from the witnesses in Oregon are newsworthy in of themselves. If this happened in an inner city school, the emotions would be somewhat different. Fear? Shock? Yes, but not talked about in the same way even if a camera and mic are put into someone’s face. And even then, there might be the request not to show that person fully on TV. Don’t snitch. Snitches get hurt. 

Any news story is going to go right for the emotional response first off, and the follow ups will be more thoughtful. Grab the heart and the mind will follow. Put someone on camera from white America and you get tears, rage and raw emotions. Put someone on camera from inner-city black America, and you usually get fewer strong emotions.

There is a numbness about shootings in the inner city. And every time there is another mass shooting somewhere in white America we spread that same numbness. I don’t want to be numb. 

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