We all know sites like Gawker exists to give folks a unique take on what’s going on in the news. They use a bit of sarcasm and, sometimes a downright disgusted tone, to mock the ridiculousness of what makes the news.
Well, this afternoon, Gawker contributor Adam Weinstein decided to post a photo of an MSNBC screen sent to him by a reader showing the body of Trayvon Martin lying in the grass after he was shot. It was a crime scene photo that was shown on the channel’s News Nation With Tamron Hall show.
(Out of respect for the Martin family, I will not upload the photo here).
Of course, this is the kind of stuff Gawker does to get a rise out of people. It’s the kind of stuff that continues to bring users back to their sites. It’s the kind of stuff that gets people talking. And, it does get people pissed off.
But, I am disturbed that anyone, including MSNBC, would think their viewers and readers need to see the dead body of a child who was gunned down by a overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer. But, according to Weinstein, this image needs to be shown:
To Trayvon’s parents, Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, I’m sorry that I feel compelled to share this photograph. Were I a slave to journalistic norms, I would say that it’s somehow in the public interest to see him there. I would point out Florida’s sunshine laws, and the TV network’s incompetence, and argue the inevitability that this image would’ve gained a wider audience than it has already.
But those are rationalizations. They don’t explain my motive: Good old-fashioned rage that this kid is dead because my home state empowered a dullard aficionado of Van Damme and Seagal movie cliches to choose his own adventure. Florida literally gave George Zimmerman license to make up neighborhood threats and invite violent confrontations, confident in the knowledge that he carried more firepower jammed down his sweaty fat waistband than every army on earth beheld before 1415.
I wish I were a better person than that, but I’m not. People come up short all the time, after all. I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have a gun.
Weinstein could have been the better person and choose not to further disrespect the family of Trayvon Martin by refusing to post the photo for the world to see. MSNBC could have shown some journalistic integrity and chose not to show the photo to its viewers.
But we have seen time and time again that this type of respect and second-guessing isn’t given to black and brown bodies. In war coverage and other tragedies, we routinely see the bodies of people of color who were victims of crime, organized violence and systemic killing by rogue terrorists or nation-states. While Weinstein may think he was doing some sort of noble thing by showing the photo to express his outrage at George Zimmerman’s actions, he nonetheless flexed his white privilege in deciding that this young black boy was not worthy of respect or agency given to white victims of crime that grants them the dignity they deserve in death.
Black and brown bodies continue to be othered and disrespected, and this decision to exploit Trayvon Martin and his family’s tragedy for shock value is another way to remind the public that black and brown victims of crime aren’t deserving of that dignity and agency automatically given to their white counterparts.
Their bodies and experiences are fair game to be used as entertainment for whiteness.
Weinstein notes if he was a “slave” (seriously?!) to journalistic norms, he’d justify showing the photo as being in the public’s best interest. Bullshit. What does the public gain by seeing the dead body of a child we all know was shot and killed? How does this help the public better understand what happened that night? The public does not need a photo to understand that Trayvon Martin was shot dead inside a Florida neighborhood. All we see is the body of a dead child a few people thought would be okay to exploit to increase readership and viewership, which helps maximize their bottom line.
There are other ways Weinstein could have shown his outrage at the death of Trayvon Martin. There were other ways MSNBC could have drive home their point. Instead, both Weinstein and this cable news network decided to show its latent disrespect for black bodies and exploit the death of Trayvon Martin for entertainment.