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The media's racial double standard in covering sexual assault cases, in 2 tweets

How will the media treat a convicted or accused criminal? It's increasingly clear that race plays a tremendous role.

On Twitter, Kelly Ellis pointed out the disparity, showing the differences in how the Washington Post covered a white former Stanford University student and black men accused of sexual assault:

One catch is that the mug shot for the former Stanford University student, Brock Turner, wasn't previously released by police. Even so, the Post could have opted for any other photo, perhaps one of him in court. A yearbook picture, combined with the headline, is certainly more charitable than what black suspects got.

But it's not just the headlines and pictures. The Post's article on Turner goes into a lot of detail about his life — even going as far as calling him "baby-faced" and calling the sexual assault "a stunning fall from grace" as it detailed his record as a swimmer. (The victim noted these types of details with disgust in a lengthy letter to her attacker.)

Meanwhile, the other articles have few, if any, details about the black suspects' lives beyond the crimes they were accused of.

Looking at the disparity in media coverage, the message is clear: White criminal suspects are worthy of your sympathy and empathy, with their lives carefully analyzed to see exactly what went wrong. But black suspects? A simple mug shot is all you apparently need to see.

This is the kind of racial disparity we've seen time and time again in media coverage. For example, shortly after a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, the New York Times ran a profile emphasizing that Brown was "no angel." It quickly drew comparisons to less harsh coverage that the Times gave to actual criminals and terrorists who were white, such as Timothy McVeigh and John Wayne Gacy.

People will likely differ on whether criminals deserve any public empathy or understanding. But for the media, it seems like a criminal's race often decides the answer to that question.


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