On July 20 2012, a mass shooting occurred in Aurora Colorado during a midnight premier of the movie “The Dark Night Rises.” The suspect, James Holmes, killed 12 people and injured 58 others. Immediately news agencies from around the nation were covering every bit of the incident. The families of the victims were interviewed, Holmes background was deeply investigated and President Obama made a trip to Aurora to visit those inflicted. It would be a tragedy that shook Americans to their core, for American lives have been lost.
A few weeks later yet another mass shooting would occur. This location would be different; instead, the shooting took place in a house of worship. The gunman, Michael Wade entered a Sikh gurdwara killing nine people in Oak Creek Wisconsin. More American lives have been taken, however a few days after the event, there seemed to be almost no news follow-up. No one was asking for the background of Page or questioning his motives. There were no updates on the family members of the victims. President Obama was nowhere to be found.
So what has caused for this stark difference in media coverage? Why is that the media has dove into one mass shooting deeper than the other? Has the Temple shootings been so quickly forgotten?
The value of an “American” then comes into question. For weren’t both shootings a tragedy that took place on American soil? Instead it seemed that the skin color of the victims provoked such an austere factor in what was considered newsworthy.
As a country that’s built on diversity, the situation proves otherwise. What if the roles were reversed? What if the attacker was Muslim? Or the attack took place within a Church? How would our reactions differ? Would the media and the American people then have been able to sympathize? Immediately the attacks would be label as terrorism. People across the country would have been outraged and perhaps, it would have been labeled a September 11th part two.
The power of the media today is substantially undermined and underestimated. Therefore when one of the most influential outlets in the world puts a greater emphasis on a particular story, a subconscious message is embedded into our morals that maybe because these people don’t look like “us” that the incident isn’t as personal.
The notion of minorities being a distinct “other” is a concept that fuels a larger divide into society. We forget that not only are we all Americans, but we are all human. One life lost is not more valuable than our neighbors, regardless of race, or religion. After all, isn’t that what this country prides on?
The Sikh community is an American one. The Aurora community is an American one. Michael Page was not only a white supremacist, but a terrorist. So was James Holmes. Both men took the innocent lives of Americans in an unjust, cruel and malicious manner and yet the media fails to acknowledge this. Too many times do we justify a killing due to the race of the perpetrator. Too many times do we label a “brown” person as a terrorist yet hesitate to label the Anglo-Saxon ones. And too many times do we allow our differences to divide us on a macro level rather than accurately report the unity on a micro level.
At the end of the day, humanity and humility must merge into one. The media must become humble and respectful to the lives lost in both situations. It must also equally condemn the attackers of all situations regardless of race or religion. Sympathy, unity and solidarity is present on the ground, and it is the responsibility of the larger media to accurately report so.
And most importantly, modern media must become a reflection of the people’s experience and the people’s experience should not become sensationalized headlines. The people’s experience is what makes this melting pot a country of unity. It is time for the media to respectfully and equally document all our experiences, as Americans of various faiths, colors and perspectives, all one moment, at a time.