We are being inundated with images of deceased and displaced Brown children. Sometimes, it’s just good to check in and acknowledge the collective grief we may all be experiencing.
The recent deaths of the Palestinian children on the beach in Gaza was horrific. Their deaths deserve an elegy and a memoriam that focuses all of our minds and hearts on peace. The image of one of the boys, in his Father’s arms, went into our living rooms. And, as much as I want to be aware of the exact degree of the violence, I want to respect the privacy of the deceased. Did we need to see his deceased little body on the small screen?
Certainly, print outlets have more latitude. And, as the concerned, we should be able to seek out the information that we desire. But, displaying their bodies on television felt invasive. Again, I understand that we need to be aware. But, this parade of deceased and hurting Brown children, on the small screen, coming into our living rooms, must be considered.
In these times, especially on CNN, sensationalism leads before facts. Engaging viewers on an emotional level is paramount. We click between news sources very quickly. We want the details. We want to know who, what, where, when why and how. In the desire to keep our attention, news outlets have to pull us in to their reporting. They have to grab us. But, I have to say, showing a Father racing with his deceased child in his arms, as the child’s body flails about, was difficult to bear. Is there another way to communicate the horror without invading the privacy of the deceased?
Recently, a reporter on NBC interviewed one of the Immigrant children who had reached the Border in California. The child was 8 years old. The reporter seemed gleeful that he could get this child to talk. The child was carrying a slip of paper that held the whereabouts of her Mother. The Reporter waited as the child searched, desperately, for the piece of paper. She thought she had it in the plastic bag she was carrying. No, she remembered, it was in the pocket of her pants. She retrieved it and read it, “North Carolina”, she said, looking to the reporter as if he could make her Mother appear from wherever North Carolina was. He continued with his reporting, he got what he needed. No concern for her sense of dislocation.
The child was simply a story to him. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I had ever seen. And, I wondered, did this Brown child deserve to have her face and her desperation tossed into American living rooms to make a point? Couldn’t they shield her face? After all, she is just 8 years old.
In the News, Brown children matter when it is time to illustrate grief and suffering. The Brown bodies slaughtered and strewn on the streets of Chicago pepper our screens whenever CNN or the Nightly News decides to feature a segment on them. Yes, we want attention brought to these issues. But, can we do it in a way that respects the deceased?
I remember when HLN showed the image of Trayvon Martin as he lay dead after being murdered by George Zimmerman. No one at HLN, even with the time delay that has been imposed since JanetGate, caught it. It is an image that haunts me still. It’s important to understand the horror; to not gloss over it. But I can’t think of the last time I saw a deceased White child or White bodies strewn on the ground.
It is a question I wrestle with: Do we show the deceased? How much do we need to see? Is there another way to show the deceased in Chicago? Perhaps through animation or graphs. Are the images of Brown bodies lying dead on the streets having an impact on us? Having an impact on how we value or devalue Brown life? Just as Americans are not allowed to see the corpses of fallen Soldiers, shouldn’t all dead be afforded the same respect?
The regale of Brown dead bodies is so common that I’m sure most of us take it for granted.
There are body parts and bodies scattered in the field where Malaysian Flight MH17 exploded. We do not see those bodies, why is that? I assume it’s because it’s horrifying and we should respect the privacy of the deceased. Do we only respect the value of a life if it’s of a certain class? Do children on the beach in Gaza, do the Immigrant children seeking safety on our Borders, and children on the streets of Chicago, have a lesser life value?
In these times, as we are besieged with horrifying news, let's make sure we respect the departed. Let's make sure that we don’t assume that Brown bodies equal death and grief. Unless, of course, media outlets decide to show ALL deceased victims of violence.
We do see White children on the screen when they go missing, or post-grief, when they have survived a trauma. And it's usually a static photo from a happier time. In that context, images of White children are displayed with a consistency. To pull us in. To create empathy in our hearts. To keep us alert and on the lookout. White equals sympathy. What is the meaning of a deceased Brown child?
These are just some of my thoughts, as I grieve the lives of those four boys on the beach in Gaza. As someone who grew up on the beach, who had her beach as a playground, there is no greater joy than to be a child running free on the beach. Not a care in the world. No fear. It is the bliss of childhood. For death to visit those children, in that moment, shatters me. It just shatters me. I want to give their deaths the attention they deserve. I just don’t know if seeing their lifeless bodies, in the moment where they deserve the most dignity, was respectful.
May they rest in peace: Ismali, Zakaria, Ahed and Mohamed. (All cousins, ages 9-12)
From Nicolas Casey of the Wall Street Journal:
“The Bakr boys assumed that the seashore, unlike their neighborhood, was safe from attack, said Sayed Bakr, 13, one of the survivors of the airstrike.
They wandered down toward the port where many of their parents worked as fishermen, and collected crab shells.
Soon they withdrew to a nearby beach and began playing a game called "Arabs and Jews," said Araby Bakr, 11, another survivor.
Under the rules of the game, Araby said, older children designate a captain to lead each team and then choose up sides.
The "Arabs" wield sticks as play guns and try to catch the "Jews" and put them in a mock jail. The game has been played for years in the Palestinian territories.
"We follow each other, run after each other and shoot sometimes," Araby said.
One of the boys was in the make-believe jail—a tin hut above the harbor—when the first Israeli missile hit. Four of the boys ran toward an old shipping container in search of safety.
Araby said the strike sent the body of one of his cousins "floating through the air" and split the boy's head open.
Sayed said he dived to the ground when the first rocket struck. He had jumped to his feet and was trying to catch up to his four cousins when a second Israeli missile crashed into the beach.
A photo originally posted on Twitter shows four children running from the flaming hut.
A subsequent picture shows a blast near the children's path, a fountain of sand flying into the air. The children are no longer visible. Three of the four were killed.”