Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Manhood cut short

A man at 18...
Is there really anything more to say about the horror of Michael Brown’s untimely, unnecessary death?

Journalists of all ages write zillions of words datelined Ferguson, Missouri, and the handiest of those words appear to be “black teenager.” Hundreds of news accounts include those words in the opening paragraph, as though journalists don’t know what to make of an 18-year-old.

Journalists often describe a rape victim who is 19 as a girl, but they’ll call an 18-year-old Army private a young woman. A boy of 19 may fall into a lake, while a man of 18 rescues him. Nobody knows, or wants to say, why this is. When I was 17 I was a copy boy, but a year later I was the man who covered the police beat.

William “Willie” Johnson won the Medal of Honor in the Civil War when he was just a kid, and David killed Goliath when he was in his teens. A Marine named Jacklyn H. Lucas fought so hard on Iwo Jima that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 17 at the time
Babe Ruth was 19 when he started with the Boston Red Sox. Bill Gates was 19 when he co-founded Microsoft.

At 18 an American is an adult and can vote. At 17 a teenager can serve in the armed forces. So why are so many journalists stuck on describing Michael Brown as a teenager in virtually every story they write about his tragic death? Reporters know three things about Michael Brown. These can be written and rewritten without even googling the victim. But Michael Brown’s birthdays are not his identity, and do not alter the injustices of his life and death.

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