Jordan Edwards: A Case of Police Brutality in the US South. How Do the American Media React?

Pre-University Paper, 2018

23 Pages, Grade: 0,7



1 When Police Becomes an Enemy

2 Jordan Edwards: A Caseof Police Brutality in the US South - How Do the American Media React?
2.1 The Phenomenon of Police Brutality - Basic Facts
2.1.1 Discriminatory Officers in US History
2.1.2 Today's Under-Representation of Blacks in US Police Departments
2.1.3 Jordan Edwards - A Typical Case of Police Brutality
2.2 Coverage in American Mainstream Newspapers
2.2.1 The New York Times
2.2.2 The Washington Post
2.2.3 Their Reporting in Comparison
2.3 Reporting in Liberal and Conservative Magazines
2.3.1 The New Republic
2.3.2 National Review
2.3.3 Juxtaposition of the Two

3 The Media Contribute to Solving the Alleged Banana Problem

Police Brutality

List of Illustrations Cited

List of Works Cited

Appendix: Newspaper Articles Used in the Term Paper

1 When Police Becomes an Enemy

On a Monday evening in July last year, during our usual weekly table tennis practice, I talked about the current events in the world with one of my friends named Alexander A. He drew my attention to the pictures of the G20 summit in Hamburg shown on television around the world (cf. Fox 1). This friend, an Afro-German having lived in Germany for about 15 years, described as alarming the police use of rough measures like water cannons and pepper spray to force back demonstrators after escalation of peaceful protests by the left scene. It was a brutality he did not expect to see in Germany and a reminder of what happened in his home country. One month later, at dinner during our family vacation on the Baltic Sea, I got into conversation with a teacher, whose school in Hamburg had remained closed for safety reasons on these fateful days. She narrated to me how she had looked out of her flat window in the city centre and was shocked to see down at the street masked people smashing cars and shop windows. - Two different opinions about the same situation, which agree, nevertheless, on the fact that such an escalation of violence between police and citizens should not reoccur in the future.

An American would probably not have been so appalled in light of these “little” water cannons used by German police. After all, it is no secret that US officers reach for the firearm more quickly. Jordan Edwards, a former high school student of my age, is one of 987 victims shot and killed by police in 2017 (cf. Sullivan 1). His tragic death, which occurred at a house party in Balch Springs, Texas, is a case of Police Brutality (cf. Barkan and Bryjak 288) in the US South and forms the caption of this term paper. Since I am planning to work in the media, I chose to explore this case of Police Brutality using an interesting approach: I will examine a cross section of America's newspaper landscape and compare their reporting of this case. This method should provide information about whether they were neutral and impartial in their coverage or whether political tendencies can be dictated in their report. Do the media fulfil their major responsibility to democracy by reflecting on facts and using several reliable sources? An unbiased reporting of Jordan's tragic death would, at least, console his family that the story of his heart-breaking death is told unaltered.

2 Jordan Edwards: A Case of Police Brutality in the US South - How Do the American Media React?

2.1 The Phenomenon of Police Brutality - Basic Facts

987 - Last year alone, so many people, almost exclusively males, were shot and killed by police according to an ongoing Washington Post database project that tracks the fatal shootings.

Since 2015, The Post has logged the details of 2,945 shooting deaths, culled from local news coverage, public records and social-media reports. [.] While the number of black males - armed and unarmed - who have been shot and killed has fallen, black males continue to be shot at disproportionately high rates (Sullivan 1).

Looking at the ethnic division of America in relation to the number of fatalities, it is a clear sign that US officers are more likely to fire at citizens belonging to this minority group: “Black males accounted for 22percent of all people shot and killed in 2017, yet they are 6percent of the total population. White males accounted for 44percent of all fatal police shootings [30 % in total].” (Sullivan 3). In the face of these facts, the inevitable question arises: Why should this happen again and again in the US? - Steven E. Barkan and George J. Bryjak in Fundaments of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View blame the US officers in particular for this ugly situation:

If legitimate force is a necessary and inescapable part of police work, then police brutality is the use of excessive physical force or any force than is reasonably necessary to accomplish a lawful police purpose. [.] [That means], intelligent people can disagree on what constitutes excessive force. [.] [Even so] [c]ops develop the sense that they can use exercise power without too great risk of being called strictly into account for its use (288-291).

In addition to a lack of competence, policemen may have made these inappropriate decisions under the influence of racial prejudices and have not evaluated the situation objectively and correctly (cf. Barkan and Bryjak 293). Since the discrimination against Blacks by white officers, as revealed in the current figures in The Washington Post, is rooted in the early phase of US law enforcement, one has to look into American history to understand this undesirable development.

2.1.1 Discriminatory Officers in US History

The conflict between black people and police is anything but a recent phenomenon. An article in the magazine Smithsonian, which is published monthly by Smithsonian Institution, a state-run educational organization owning many museums in America, titled “The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U.S.” and written by Katie Nodjimbadem provides information about that historical phenomenon:

The first American police department was established in Boston in 1838. The communities most targeted by harsh tactics were recent European immigrants. But, as African-Americans fled the horrors of the Jim Crow south, they too became the victims of brutal and punitive policing in the northern cities where they sought refuge (Nojimbadem 2).

After so many years, the problem remained the same, as Nojimbadem outlines in the next paragraph:

In 1929 [...] the Illinois Crime Survey [...] provided data on police activity — although African-Americans made up just five percent of the area's population, they constituted 30 percent of the victims of police killings. [...] That same year, President Herbert Hoover established the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement to investigate crime related to prohibition in addition to policing tactics. [...] The realities of police brutality came to light, even though the commission did not address racial disparities outright (Nojimbadem 3).

In spite of this problem, the Black still acquiesced without demonstrating openly until the 1960s:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 2: This poster was carried during the 1963 March on Washington (Nojimbadem 4).

During the Civil Rights Era, though many of the movement's leaders advocated for peaceful protests, the 1960s were fraught with violent and destructive riots. Aggressive dispersion tactics, such as police dogs and fire hoses, against individuals in peaceful protests and sit-ins were the most widely publicized examples of police brutality in that era. But it was the pervasive violent policing in communities of color that built distrust at a local, everyday level. [...] [Additionally], Black newspapers reported incidents of police brutality throughout the early and mid-20th century and the popularization of radio storytelling spread those stories even further (Nojimbadem 4).

Someone who is not familiar with the story surrounding this 55-year- old poster, which belongs to the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, could think that this placard was recent and carried during the “Black Lives Matter” movement in 2012 and the following years (cf. Sidner and Simon 1). So even half a century later there is still a long way to go before US law enforcement can be considered a discrimination-free institution not being responsible for such a disproportionate number of Black fatalities (cf. Sullivan 3).

2.1.2 Today's Under-Representation of Blacks in US Police Departments

When looking at the current ethnic division in US police departments, one has to acknowledge that the statistics are not as alarming as the numbers of Black fatalities are. Due to the effects of the Civil Rights Era,which pressured the government to recruit more Black officers, the situation has improved: According to a BJS Report, in 2013, [.] African American officers represented 12.2 percent of all law enforcement officers, an increase when compared with 9.3 percent in 1987. As studies have previously noted, larger departments are more diverse than those serving smaller populations: [For instance in New York] African Americans represent 23 percent of the city's population and 16 percent of the NYPD. [.] The make up of rank and file officers [.] is virtually 50-50 (white vs. non-white) (Dempsey, et. al. 210 f.).

Nevertheless, as Dempsey summarizes at the end of chapter seven in An Introduction to Policing, the achievement of appropriate representation of minority groups like the Blacks in US law enforcement remains a challenge. Although great progress has been made, he hoped that discrimination in American police departments would soon be completely eliminated (cf. 225). So even in the beginning of the 21st century, the under-representation of Black officers is still a grave problem. That is why Barkan and Bryjak mention it as another negative factor favouring Police Brutality and also complicating its elimination till date (cf. 289).

Against this backdrop, Jordan Edwards' death serves as an example of how a typical case of Police Brutality plays out in reality and underlines the big danger such cases pose to the everyday life of black persons in the US.

2.1.3 Jordan Edwards - A Typical Case of Police Brutality

In spite of smaller divergences observable in the American newspapers' detailed description of Jordan Edwards' brutal death (cf. Newspaper Articles named in List of Works Cited), correspondently the action procedure is as follows:

On 29 April, 2017, in response to a complaint of underage drinking, two white officers R. Oliver and T. Gross, both of the Police Department in Balch Springs, Texas, a Dallas suburb, were dispatched to the place of incident. The policemen were inside a home speaking to the host of a house party when they heard a noise consistent with shots being fired. Officer Gross went to investigate, while Officer Oliver went to pick up his patrol rifle, a Modern Carbine, from his car. Then Gross came across a black Chevrolet Impala carrying Jordan, his two brothers and two friends. He instructed the unarmed kids to stop the vehicle, but whether the boys in the car moving on heard that order is unclear. Oliver raised his rifle and started shooting. A bullet tore through Jordan's head. The Police spokesmen initially said the vehicle had backed up toward Oliver "in an aggressive manner," but later they backtracked and reported that body camera video showed the Impala was driving away from the officers, since they wanted to leave the party. The gunshots the officers had heard were real but had come from a parking lot a block away. - Later Oliver was fired from the Police Department and he was indicted on charges of first- degree murder in July. Jordan Edwards' family has filed an excessive-force lawsuit against him, too.

So much about the action procedure - Now using this example one can easily discover the “ingredients” for a case of Police Brutality mentioned earlier under bullet point 2.1. Firstly, you can recognise quite clearly the “excessive use of force” (Barkan and Bryjak 288) by law enforcement. For example, for stopping a car heading away from the policemen, it would have been sufficient, to shoot in a tyre. Secondly, the unarmed teenagers presented no danger, which suggests that writing down the car number plate would have been an adequate measure for further police investigation if there is need. Therefore, Jordan Edwards' death is rightly catalogued in The Washington Post's data base as a case of “Fatal-Force”. It is clearly an ugly incident of Police Brutality. Even worse, this fatality could have happened due to an officer being under the influence of racial prejudices and not evaluating the situation objectively and correctly (cf. Barkan and Bryjak 293). The fact that there were two white armed policemen vs. a group of five black unarmed teens sitting in a car defencelessly supports this line of argument.

Comparison of the coverage of Jordan Edwards' case in the US media should now give us an overview of how they reacted in face of this fatality and an idea of the sources they used. Certainly, each newspaper focuses on different aspects and wants to present its own version of the course of events through responsible journalism rooted in facts and unbiased reporting. Nevertheless, there is also the possibility of fabricating a message in the articles or of taking sides. These are the aspects which will be investigated in detail later in this work.

2.2 Coverage in American Mainstream Newspapers

There are only a fairly small number of so-called mainstream newspapers in America. Using the criteria edition figures and the newspaper's purview, Sloan and Mackay in their book Media Bias: Finding It, Fixing It list only four American newspapers as belonging to this small group of so-called mainstream. These would be: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal (cf. 38). We will now analyse the reporting of The New York Times, The Washington Post both which are described as liberal news outlets.

2.2.1 The New York Times

Jordan Edwards' case in The New York Times' first report is titled “Officer Who Fatally Shot 15-Year-Old Texas Boy Is Charged With Murder” published on 6 May, 2017. At the outset of the article, the reader gets updated about the case of Edwards. Thus, the guilty policeman Oliver would have been charged with murder and would have turned himself in according to officials. Only after that the newspaper enters more into the sequence of events in the death of Edwards, whereby especially Oliver's behaviour is well researched. The fact that he would have injured Jordan fatally at the head by using an AR- 15rifle is hedged even twice by the journalist: "according to the police and the law firm representing the Edwards family" (Fernandez and Haag 2).

In relation to this aspect, The New York Times mentions in another report titled “Warrant Details How Officer's Fatal Encounter With Texas Teenager Escalated” published on 10 May, 2017, that immediately prior to Oliver's fatal shooting another use of force by the second officer Gross would have taken place. I immediately note that it was the only one of the examined newspapers that reported this. Therefore, the second officer would have smashed the rear passenger window with his weapon without further ado, after the car carrying Edwards refused to stop (cf. Chokshi 2).

Now in the other course of the former article the reactions of different people are captured. Beside the expectable statements of Jordan's family about the police's bad work and the refusal of Oliver's mother to comment, the former black mayor of Balch Springs Cedric Davis is interviewed. He expresses his relief about the fast-drawn conclusions for the guilty policeman, which would have been expected in comparable past cases in vain. Besides, it was difficult that still no clear statement has been made by the new Trump government about how to deal with Police Brutality (cf. Fernandez and Haag 3-5). The central figure in the last third of the article is the guilty police officer Oliver, whose guilty past absolutely rings alarm bells. It is contained inthe details of his military career, in which he was stationed, among the rest, also in Iraq in 2004, when a suicide attempt had taken place at a military mess tent. Having had such experiences, he would have started working for Balch Springs police department in 2011, where he would have been reprimanded for “aggressive and unprofessional behaviour [.] on a drunken-driving case” (Fernandez and Haag6) in 2013. Oliver would have been suspended for 16 hours and he would have been ordered to attend anger management training. Afterwards, these details are not commented on by both sides, as done before. Instead the journalist concludes by citing Lee Merritt, the lawyer for the Edwards' family, who condemns these findings quite clearly: “As I learn more about this officer, he seems to be one who had some problems. It should have been dealt with and it should have been identified a long time ago.” (Fernandez and Haag 6). Leaving this meaningful assertion hanging hints that there is nothing further the newspaper wants to be added. In addition, it is also understandable that the section containing the speech of the police representatives is less in comparison to the section containing the response from Edwards family, Davis, Merritt and Jordan's friends.The police spoke only once at the beginning where they tried to justify themselves for their initial wrong description of the situation and reported the reason for Oliver's arrest.

Additionally, in another article of The New York Times titled “A Texas Town Grieves for One of its Own” published on 7 May, 2017, the under­representation of blacks in US police departments today is critically highlighted: For Balch Springs [.] the shooting has threatened to widen the divide between the majority-white police force and the community's black and Latino residents. In recent years, a number of black residents have accused officers of using excessive force and have sued the department in federal court for civil rights violations [vainly]. [O]nly a handful of the departments' nearly 40 police officers are either black or Hispanic (McGee and Fernandez 3).

Furthermore Davis, as well as Jordan's friends, confirms that blacks had no more trust in the police. Again, the newspaper captures pretty different reactions to this point. Hence, the current police chief Haber declared “We have an honest relationship with our community.” Also, the police spokesman Gonzalez added "the department has had difficulty recruiting black and Hispanic officers because of a lack of resources and because of better pay offered by nearby departments.” (McGee and Fernandez 4). In contrast, Jordan's mate Smith stated that “Nobody in the community trusts the police because of what they have been doing. [.] Any small incident with them can just escalate from zero to 100 real quick.” (McGee and Fernandez 5). If one reads these absolutely different statements, one could think that the police are regarded by the residents of colour as enemies. This agrees with how the title of the [The illustration was removed by the summarizes editors for copyright reasons.] town mourns of their inhabitants by showing societal co­hesion. - All those statements reflecting the citizen's mood were caught up at Jordan's funeral as is reported at the onset. Even the black mayor Marshall is reported to have expressed her solidarity to the family of Jordan Edwards on behalf of the whole town. As the adjoining photo illustrated, Jordan's funeral was well attended. Finally, the last word in the article is again left to Merritt: “They [Jordan's parents] actually believe that he is a symbol of police brutality in the country.” (McGee and Fernandez 6). One can recognize thesame effect as in the article from the day before. The newspaper leaves it to the reader to decide what he thinks about the behaviour of the police. However, one will claim e. g. the police's argument about having too little black officers because of better pay offered by nearby departments to be rather implausible. The fact that US law enforcement instead obviously recruits white, but - due to their past - unsuitable officers like Oliver, must look on the reader virtually paradoxical. He is more likely to believe in Merritt's conclusion claiming Jordan a victim of Police Brutality. - All in All, The New York Times expresses indirect criticism of the police's bad work, which suggests the reader to reflect critically once again about this issue.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 3: Many people attended Jordan's funeral (McGee and Fernandez 1).

2.2.2 The Washington Post

At the beginning of the article named “Texas officer who killed black teenager leaving party is charged with murder” published on 6 May, 2017, the newspaper updates the readers about the case of Edwards by alluding to new information contained in Dallas Morning News, which says a murder warrant was signed by a judge and Oliver's bond was set at $300,000. This is followed by a description of the incident. According to police reports, Oliver saw the leaving car and thought that it has something to do with the shots they had heard before and fired at Jordan. As proven by a quote of the forensic medicine, he was indeed killed by a rifle wound to the head. Furthermore, the later reaction by police which corrected the initial wrong statement by police, andled to Oliver's dismissal on account of violation of several department policies, is considered (cf. Holley 1-4).

The particular guideline violated by Oliver, can be found out by reading a later article of The Washington Post published on 8 May, 2017, in which the journalist cites the use-of-force policy of Balch Springs police department: “A copy of the 2016 version [.] specifically instructs officers to move out of the way of an oncoming vehicle when possible, rather than opening fire” (Lowery 4). Therefore, the text allows the supposition that Oliver was fired on account of this policy. Besides, this article deals very extensively with the long history of deadly accidents, in which a policeman shot and killed a person in a moving vehicle. Thus, the urgency to have a clearly defined policy regulating when shooting is appropriate had already been recognised under Obama's government. According to Ronald Davis, a former high-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice, the main problem was that the officers are not called into account of violating these guidelines: “We seldom hold officers accountable for tactical and judgement decisions and then the community does not get the accountability it is looking for.” (Lowery 8). - All together The Washington Post highlights in this article, the fundamental importance of the police's later statement correction (after including the footage material) and that thereby fortunately in this case the right consequences for the guilty officer had been drawn (cf. Lowery 8).

The article from 6 May, 2017, on the other hand, focuses more on both side's reactions towards this crime. After outlining the incident from the perspective of the police in the first section, the version of the Edwards family is told in the second half of the article. In their opinion, emotions understandably play a much bigger role. That becomes clear with the quotation of Lee Merritt: “We are declaring war on bad policing. This has happened far too often. Our community is fed up with the same tired excuses, once again offered by Balch Springs Police Department, that this was somehow fault of the victims.” (Holley 5). In this statement, he condemned the Black's repeated denigration of casualties of Police Brutality as criminals whereas those to be blamed for their death are discharged. Then in the last three sentences of the article, the focus of the newspaper moves directly to the victims namely Jordan and his friends. They pointed out that they “played football [.] together” and that “Jordan was going through spring training for next year's season” (Holley 7). These are not facts that the reader must necessarily know about this case. Nevertheless, it is mentioned consciously to assign Jordan with positive attributes which further puts him in the audience's favour. The same applies to the final sentence citing Lee Merritt: “These kids are never going to be the same.” (Holley 7). Therefore, the reader is emotionally touched and he can only react with a lack of understanding to Oliver's cruel act having terminated the teen's life forever.

The newspaper's view be­comes even clearer in the editorial board article: “Accountability for Jor­dan?” published on the 3 May, 2017. Solely because of this elliptical [The illustration was removed by the question without predicate in the title, editors for copyright reasons.] the reader is addressed immediately and surely most readers wiH hope, just deep grief (Editorial Boardl). on account of their sense of justice or even a feeling of solidarity with the victim (particularly due to the accompanying photo), that the initial question will be affirmed in the following text. After reading the first lines containing the incident details one cannot help but ask with the journalist:

How could something as mundane as police being called to break up a teen party result in the death of a 1 5-year-old described as a "kid that did everything right"? Did officers lie and think they could get away with blaming the victim until video evidence proved otherwise? (Editorial Board 2).

An eager American newspaper reader will additionally ask the most important question: “And will this latest, utterly needless death of a young African American male make "Black Lives Matter" more than a hashtag by spurring needed police reforms?” (Editorial Board 2”). Consequently, one is animated to read on in order to get answers to those queries, what also corresponds exactly to the intention of the newspaper. Another effect of this title in combination with the sad picture is that the victim Jordan Edwards moves into the focus immediately what is also intensified by the positive attributes used to characterize him in the article. Therefore, the already mentioned Merritt's statement blaming the officers and underlining the victim's innocence fits quite well here. (cf. Editorial Board 3). As a matter of fact, this thesis is underpinned by citing the house-made figures of the data base “Fatal-Force”, which are specified under bullet point 2.1 in this paper. Afterwards the journalist strikes an emotional (e. g. “Thank goodness”) balance for the case Edwards: “[I]t is [...] irresponsible not to recognize the issues with police training and policies that historically have put minority communities at risk and too long have gone uncorrected.” (Editorial Board 5). The salient fact that the bold word "uncorrected" is placed by inversion at the end of sentence - at the same time the very end of the article - points once more to the message of the article, namely: The too long failure of correcting department policies and police training had cost another life, to whose family The Washington Post expresses its solidarity.

2.2.3 Their Reporting in Comparison

From a content point of view, the reporting of both newspapers differs up to the point that Gross would have hit the car window prior to Oliver's fatal shots at Jordan (cf. Chokshi 2) basically not. However, the two place the emphasis on completely different aspects. The New York Times tries to provide explanations for the occurrence of the fatality, whereby its focus is mainly directed on the police, in particular on the guilty officer Roy Oliver. Therefore, the journalists attempt over and over again to outline the case of Edwards in the context of its prehistory. Concerning the sources, the biggest difference to The Washington Post is that not only nationwide statistics (cf. Lowery 5ff.) are used to underline the arguments, but also a detailed research on-site in Balch Springs. By interviewing citizens, black representatives, the mayor, the police and the victim's family itself the reader learns that it is not only Oliver's incompetence due to his past that was the problem, which is not mentioned by The Washington Post at all, but also the fewness of black officers in a black community, mistrust of the police, etc. Besides, The New York Times tries to influence the reader indirectly by stating the fact situation before catching up reactions to the issue. At the same time, the favoured party's share of conversation is clearly dominant. Thereby the reader is inspired to think critically about the matter, and about the police's behaviour. In contrast, how The Washington Post works, becomes clear primarily in the editorial board article. Emotionally appealing to the reader by using stylistic devices like inversion, ellipse or exclamations is their recipe for making the problem accessible to the audience. For instance, the journalists do not go in detail when researching about Oliver's past since their focus is on the victim explicitly. Raising the question: “Accountability for Jordan?” the newspaper already anticipates that a great injustice took place which could have been prevented by improving police training and department policies. Of course, they also quoted several people, but in line with the nationwide focus, they primary cite representatives belonging to this layer (e.g. Ronald Davis) or the house-made figures of the countrywide data base “Fatal-Force”. All in All, the readers of The Washington Post will be moved emotionally and directly influenced, whereas the readers of The New York Times get informed in a neutral way and are affected indirectly. Nevertheless, both did responsible and unbiased journalism by reflecting on facts and using several reliable sources.

2.3 Reporting of Liberal and Conservative Magazines

Of course, liberal and conservative media represent different positions and want to express these opinions in their reporting, too. Firstly, the coverage of the liberal American magazine The New Republic published monthly since 1914 should be analysed and, secondly, by comparison the reporting of the conservative magazine National Review published in a two- week-rhythm since 1955 should be investigated. Both journals court the audience by emphasizing their liberal/conservative view on their homepages.

2.3.1 The New Republic

In the article “A Grief Observed” published on 1 July, 2017, the reporting about Jordan's death in Balch Springs is embedded in a detailed research about the long history of black people suffering under Police Brutality. However, the black author Mychal Denzel Smith draws not only attention to racist law enforcement, but also to the nationwide problem of a racist society dominated by whites. In this respect, the fact that members of the black minority have been shot and killed by white officers repeatedly functions as starting point for this thesis. Therefore, four example cases are depicted: Emmett Till (1955), Trayvon Martin (2012), Michael Brown (2014) and finally the latest one, Jordan Edwards (2017). Anyway, the reporting about these fatalities is not objective at all: The events are instead narrated from the perspective of the victims' mothers by citing their biographies (which get promoted in this article for $26.00 apiece). In doing so, the word field “grief” plays a central role. Also, the affected families were not only mourning the tragic deaths of their loved kids, but also the problem that they could not grief in peace. Since the whites would try to denigrate them as criminals, they would bear the responsibility to fight for maintaining their kids' true character in public:

But [...] [the whites] never have to prove that their very lives have value. Their grief is their own. Black grief [...] is regulated by the same forces that caused such deep pain in the first place. Black families become activists [.], while also being the gatekeepers of the legacy and humanity of those they've lost. And they must somehow do all of this while comforting a society that both produced the conditions for these tragic deaths and still refuses to acknowledge its role in them. (Smith 3).

These are very grave allegations by a black journalist, but far from having read everything. In the next section he cites Claudia Rankine, a black author, who emphasizes this thesis by saying metaphorically: “If the condition of black life is one of mourning, we should at least be able to own our own tears.” (Smith 3). The purport of this Figura etymologica is taken up again several times later and together with the title, forms a bracket around the article, which ends with the following statement of Jordan's parents: “At this time, we ask that you please [.] allow us the opportunity and space to grieve in peace. [.] Though we understand what his life and death mean symbolically, we are not to make a martyr of our son.” (Smith 9). However, in contrast to The New York Times, in The New Republic such a meaningful quote is not left hanging. Instead the journalist draws an unambiguous conclusion by saying “Part of owning the narrative must be the ability to grieve on your own terms. [.] In the absence of justice, perhaps progress is simply returning to black families their right to grieve in peace.” (Smith 9). In this magazine, the racial problems in the US society are addressed head-on and crystal clearly. And it probably fits exactly in the way the left-wing audience expects to read it. Additionally, one can easily discover where preferences lie and what kind of “narrative” about these fatalities should be told. By mentioning four example cases in a chronological order, which begins with Emmett down to the Civil Rights Era and ends with Jordan Edwards, the explosiveness of the subject becomes elucidated climatically. When getting informed about a new incident of Police Brutality in this way, a black reader can only react with anger about the whites, which necessarily will widen the gap between them. On top of that, using expressions like “white supremacy” (Smith 4), “to soothe white fear” (Smith 5) or calling the officer “killer” (Smith 2) encourages the classic stereotyped thinking on both sides. The fact that The New Republic dissociates itself from the mainstream media is clearly demonstrated not only by writing in an informal style (abbreviations like they've or don't), but also by making The New York Times look like an anti­black newspaper. As this gazette would have written less than three weeks after Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer he was no angel. After much outrage the paper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, would have acknowledged that it was an ill-chosen phrase (cf. Smith 7). The following sarcastic statement “That was enough to convict Brown - not of stealing or assault - but of the higher crime of being a “bad nigger” (Smith 7) - encourages the reader quite clearly to condemn the coverage of The New York Times.

2.3.2 National Review

In the article “Justice Is Bigger Than Narrative” published on 2 May, 2017, Jordan's death is used as an opportunity to criticize racist law enforcement, which seems, at first sight, rather unusual for a conservative magazine. But considering the police's behavior, especially their initial wrong description of the situation favoring the police officer Oliver, it would have been incomprehensible for the readers, even for conservative ones, if the article is not critical of the police. In fact, the article which is meant for the conservatives claims to side only with the truth and is not interested in defending the police: “For us conservatives, that means leaving the reflexive defense of the police to the police unions and police lawyers. It means not having a rooting interest in any given case aside from rooting for the truth to emerge.” (French 6). This differentiation from classic conservative standpoints is even more pronounced by using metaphors like “horrific realization” or “came through the hand of the state” (French 6) and paratactic sentences to make the audience realize the tragic nature of this incident. At the end of the article, the Journalist's plea helped in particular by these two stylistic devises attains its flamboyant effect: “Any other approach elevates politics over people. Seek Justice. The narrative is the lesser concern.” (French 8). Thereby, the term “narrative” is of key importance, because falsification of stories about incidents does not only happen with the police. This phenomenon is significantly more widespread in the left scene. As a matter of fact, their commitment to narrative would be legendary, because e. g. the violent Black Lives Matter rallies would still be seen as peaceful by them, although its supporters would have gunned down cops in the streets (cf. French 4). This Hyperbola may now soothe a conservative reader after feeling assaulted by the rather modern standpoints mentioned above. However, in this case the “narrative” of the National Review conforms to the coverage about the course of events leading to Jordan's death described by the other investigated media. Actually, for a sensitive reader the portrayal of the events is almost too detailed: “Witnesses said that his [Jordan's] forehead was smoking.” (French 2). Nevertheless, the National Review bridges the gap between traditional and present opinions regarding US law enforcement by referring that conservatives would be quick to know that “hands up, don't shoot” was one of the lies of the year. As only the most crazed radicals would believe that their side is always right; this would facilitate the disappearance of contradictory stories (cf. French 3). That way the magazine, on the one hand, distances itself from radical right-wing positions and satisfies, on the other hand, the classic conservative readers by discrediting the credibility of their“common enemy”, namely the left wing (cf. French 4).Later in the article another example of this balancing act can be discovered: Although the mainstream media would often share the far Left's narrative (Imputation!), it would be wrong to limit the skepticism to the “other” side. Rather, a “depressing number of cops lie with depressing regularity” (French 6). Thereby, the journalist, for one thing, attacks the mainstream media, which is what conservatives expect, then again, he appeals to the readership to question their reflexive defense of the police, which is the real message of this article.

2.3.3 Juxtaposition of the Two

Both magazines want to tell the right version of the “narrative” about Jordan's death; The New Republic from a liberal point of view andthe National Review from a conservative point of view. But each of them follows a different strategy ininforming the readers about Police Brutality in the death of Jordan Edwards whereby the two are very certain about what the left/right wing audience wants to read. David French even uses the characteristic “We” to identify himself with the conservatives, which effects a much more intensive emotional appealing to the reader than practiced by The Washington Post. The New Republic sides right at the beginning of the article with the victims and calls the police “killers” (cf. Smith 2), who have exhibited the same cruel actions since decades as suggested by the chronological order of the incidents. By promoting the victim's mothers' biographies, The New Republic presumably wantsto support and encourage them to keep fighting for maintaining their kids' true image. The National Review instead tries to animate the readers to stop defending the police and comments more on the right conservative standpoints in this matter. Thereby, both sides' reactions and statements towards the crime are completely missing, save the rather tasteless statements by the witnesses (cf. French 2). What connects both is the fact that they discredited other media; The New Republic makes the mainstream media look anti-black (cf. Smith 7) and the National Review assumes them to represent the far-left wing's opinion, whose credibility would be doubtful anyway (cf. French 6). As regards content both name the grievances hart-hitting, but consistent.

3 The Media Contribute to Solving the Alleged Banana Problem Police Brutality

In light of the regular news about new cases of Police Brutality, an American could believe this dilemma would be insoluble, so to speak a banana problem. Visualizing the figures of the ongoing Washington Post data base project “Fatal Force” (987 last year and already 563 victims in the first half of this year) one can only be dismayed and ask why the US government does not put more pressure on law enforcement to correct department policies and police training as required in The Washington Post article “Accountability for Jordan?” (cf. Editorial Board 5). However, solely by publishing these data, especially the disproportionate numbers of Black fatalities, the true dimension of this problem, which has been kept secret by the authorities for a long time, is made clear to the population: “For a third consecutive year, The Pos t documented more than twice the number of deadly shootings by police that were recorded on average annually by the FBI.” (Sullivan 6). Moreover, the fact that the FBI would have promised to improve their information gathering regarding this matter elucidates the media's importance in taking the state institutions up on their promises. That paves the way for political efforts to solve this question, which is a huge step to the final solution of the problem. Since conservatives have stood in the way of introducing stricter department policies up to now, it is more pleasing that the right-wing magazine National Review calls on its readership to refrain the reflexive defense of the police. Due to this blockade mentality too much loss would have been caused and a fatality like the case Edwards may not be repeated (cf. French 6).

Consequently, it has to be recorded that the coverage of the US media in general has quite a great influence on the public, notably the political, perception of this concern. However, the steps taken to resolve it are not yet enough. Nevertheless, if an ultra-conservative magazine like the National Review with such a strong influence on the right-wing has already realized the need for changes, it encourages the belief that Police Brutality will not remain a banana problem.

List of Illustrations Cited

Illustration 1: Jordan Edwards; adapted from:

Lartey, Jamiles. “Police shooting of Texas teen in moving car violated federal guidance.” The Guardian 2 May 2017. Pg. 28 1

Illustration 2: This poster was carried during the 1963 March on Washington; adapted from:

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U.S.” Smithsonian 27 July 2017. 26 April 2018. < history-police-brutality-in-the-us-180964098/> 5

Illustration 3: Many people attended Jordan's funeral; adapted from:

McGee, Patrick, and Manny Fernandez. “A Texas Town Grieves for One of Its Own.” The New York Times 7 May 2017. Pg. 27 10

Illustration 4: Jordan's parents Charmaine and Odell are in deep grief; adapted from: Editorial Board. "Accountability for Jordan?"The

Washington Post 3 May 2017. Pg. 18 13

List of Works Cited

Secondary Literature

Barkan, Steven E., and George J. Bryjak. Fundaments of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View. Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011. Print.

Chokshi, Niraj. “Warrant Details How Officer's Fatal Encounter With Texas Teenager Escalated.” The New York Times 10 May 2017. Pg. 18.

Dempsey, John S., et al. An Introduction to Policing. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2018. Print.

Editorial Board. “Accountability for Jordan?” The Washington Post 3 May 2017. Pg. 18.

Fernandez, Manny, and Matthew Haag. “Officer Who Fatally Shot 15-Year-Old Texas Boy Is Charged With Murder.” The New York Times 6 May 2017. Pg. 16.

Fox, Klara, et al. “G20 protesters set street fires, loot stores.” CNN 7 July 2017.

14 April 2018 < protests/index.html>.

French, David. “Justice Is Bigger Than Narrative.” National Review 2 May 2017. 20 May 2018 < shooting-texas-narratives-justice/>.

Holley, Peter, et al. “Texas officer who killed black teenager leaving party is charged with murder.” The Washington Post 6 May 2017. Pg. 4.

Lartey, Jamiles. “Police shooting of Texas teen in moving car violated federal guidance.” The Guardian 2 May 2017. Pg. 28.

Lowery, Wesley, et al. “Police have killed nearly 200 people who were in moving vehicles since 2015, including 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.” The Washington Post 8 May 2017. Pg. 3.

McGee, Patrick, and Manny Fernandez. “A Texas Town Grieves for One of Its Own.” The New York Times 7 May 2017. Pg. 27.

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U. S.” Smithsonian 27 July 2017. 26 April 2018 < /smithsonian-institution/long-painful-history-police-brutality-in-the-us-1809640>.

Sidner, Sara, and Mallory Simon. “The rise of Black Lives Matter: Trying to break the cycle of violence and silence.” CNN 28 Dec. 2015. 17 July 2018 <>.

Sloan, Wm. David, and Jenn B. Mackay. Media Bias: Finding It, Fixing It. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2007. Print.

Smith, Michael D. “A Grief Observed.” The New Republic 1 July 2017. Pg. 53.

Sullivan, John, et al. “Police Fatal-Force Toll: Nearly 1,000 Last Year.” The Washington Post 8 Jan. 2018. 21 July 2018 <https://www.washing- shot-and-killed-nearly-1000-people-in-2017.html>.


Excerpt out of 23 pages


Jordan Edwards: A Case of Police Brutality in the US South. How Do the American Media React?
"The US South: Perspectives on History, Culture, Literature, and Current Affairs"
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
police brutality, media, coverage, us south, jordan edwards, law enforcement, american, usa, gun violence, fatal shooting, new york times, washington post, national review, the new republic, reporting, case, react, newspaper
Quote paper
Michael Stahl (Author), 2018, Jordan Edwards: A Case of Police Brutality in the US South. How Do the American Media React?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Jordan Edwards: A Case of Police Brutality in the US South. How Do the American Media React?

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free