It’s the dog days of summer. A portly and pink part time web developer is rushing to his day job at Home Depot. He’s stressed as he makes sure to check off every item on his daily itinerary. Pulling into the parking lot at work, he lets out a sigh of relief. He’s on time – but just barely. As he punches his time card, the distinct sense that he has forgotten something washes over him, and as he runs over his responsibilities in his head, nothing distinct comes to mind. He pushes the thoughts aside and goes about his day.
The shift seems uneventful and routine, but the entire time, that nagging thought persists: he forgot… something. The hours pass, the clock strikes five, and he punches out and heads to his car. It’s only on the way out of the parking lot that he realizes his mistake. He has left his son unattended in his hot car for his entire shift. His son is now dead.
For those of you familiar with #HotCarDeath, you’ll fill in the blanks in this familiar story and assume that I’m talking about Justin Ross Harris, the 33 year old father who is now on trial for the murder of his 22 month old son. While this is true, let’s entertain a hypothetical and pretend for arguments sake that I am not. Let’s pretend that all of the details in the case are the same, except for one small detail.
Instead of Harris’s son being a 22 month old white baby, let’s say he’s 27 year old Joseph Adeyemi, a network security analyst from Nigeria.
Suddenly, the story of a man leaving his son in his car doesn’t seem quite newsworthy, does it? Suddenly, it’s just an inconsequential story about another dead black man, to be mentioned off hand in some larger point about the disparate violence that plagues the black community. The story gets no coverage at all, because we care more, as a society, about a white baby, than we do about a grown man of color.
Now, you may think that because I’m dealing in hypotheticals that I’m just speculating – that I’m just assuming a story about a black man overheating a car wouldn’t get any coverage. You would be wrong. While the story of Joseph Adeyemi might be fictional, the way the media handles such cases, or doesn’t handle such cases I should say, is the reality of the world we live in.
Go ahead, search Google. Try to find one story about a black man dying after being left in a car. You can’t. Not a single case has ever been reported. Are we supposed to believe that somehow this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to black men? Don’t be ridiculous. We’re choosing not to hear about it. They’re choosing not to tell us about it.
But what’s the motivation? Aren’t we supposed to be living in a post racial society? Aren’t we supposed to be living in a world where minorities have at least equitable representation in the media? Or is that all a lie? We have a black president after all – do you think if Obama overheated in a car that we would report on it? Something tells me we wouldn’t. It breaks my heart to acknowledge that no, we would just sweep that story under the rug, like every other case of black men overheating in their ill-fitting car seats.
I suppose we need to hear the story about the Harris baby. But as you read the stories and watch the coverage, remember that for every 22 month old white baby that’s left to melt to death in a car seat, there’s at least one black man that suffers the same fate – and no one seems to care.