The Context

Words matter. 

That might be the moral of the lesson learned by the Associated Press last week.
To recap Theodore Wafer, shot and killed Renisha McBride through his screen door after being startled out of bed. He claimed self-defense, but a jury of his peers saw it otherwise. The verdict was handed down last week.  Here’s how the AP used their 140-characters:
Do. Better.

Oh sigh.
While not every mis-step, mis-deed or mis-hap involving black people is automatically racism/racist – to say it’s not going over well with people who look like Renisha is an understatement.
Check out twitter hashtag #APheadlines. It’s both sad and hilarious in its truth-based satire.

At the root of it, is the same problem that many have with Twitter – brevity and being succinct while conveying the message. But the word choice here infers a lot of what matters and what doesn’t. And as seen in the first snapshot of this post – it’s possible to do it without bias. 

If we break down AP’s poor choice of wording:

Suburban Detroit:
(as opposed to no-water having, hood Detroit?). Why was she there? Did she not belong there? There are many who whole-heartedly believe this.
This is deemed to make people remember that he has a constitutional right to bare arms and a legal right to defend his home. Sitr up the court of public opinion.
Killing woman:
To quote Marlo from The Wire – my name is my name. Why isn’t she worthy of hers in death at least?
On the porch:
This wasn’t the basement or the back door. She knocked on the door. Loudly to wake someone up to get help. Isn’t that what it’s there for?
Listen, I know that sometimes things are read too much when it could be an ‘innocent mistake’. Errors and lapses of judgment happen.
But historically and of late there are just too many examples of removing our humanity for it to not be seen as a pattern. Especially since it seems like AP has a history of skewing things:


Everything has to be a fight for Black folks in America. To live. To die. To exist.
No wonder so many of us are angry. And hurt. And tired.
Words matter AP. So do lives.
–  Amy Juicebox