The Crusader Newspaper Group

Crusader Response To Sounding The Alarm

Photo caption: COLUMNIST JOHN FOUNTAIN asks why is there “no piercing collective cry rising from our communities to an undeniable, unignorable crescendo” over thousands of missing and murdered Black women?

Part One of Two

After all these years, I am sorely convinced that Black lives still don’t matter—most importantly, not even to us as Black people.

Shush. I know this is not the politically-correct thing to say. That after my opening refrain, Black-ademics, the Afro-stocracy, and those fist-pumping Blacker-than-thou soul brothers and sisters might be ready to cancel me—at least to demand revocation of my Black card.

But before I relinquish it, let them prove to me that what I said isn’t true. Go ahead. Prove it. At least first hear me out…

Where is the outrage among us Black folk over the at least 50 mostly African-American women murdered in Chicago since 2001 possibly by at least one serial killer? Where’s the mass outcry among us over the more than 5,000 Black women and girls murdered across America from 2019-2021 alone? Where are the marchers and hell-raisers infuriated over the nearly 98,000 Black females listed as missing in 2022, according to the National Crime Information Center?

Why have I never seen Black Lives Matter protestors wading in a sea of humanity and impassioned, spit-spewing chanting and sign-waving as they march through the ‘hood demanding justice when another young Black man is gunned down by another young Black man? Only when the killer or assaulter is white.

Where is the Black Lives Matter movement after yet another mass shooting by a young Black man with a “chopper” on the block that leaves yet another trail of blood, carnage and tears? Why have we as a race of people been so numbed into complacency and a state of near complete blindness and deafness with regard to the disappearance and murders of thousands of Black women and girls? Why are we so mute?

Why is there no sense of urgency among us, except among those relatively few vigilant activists, town criers, and those loved ones of victims who cry in the wilderness—beg—for the news media, police and anyone sympathetic to their cause to help them seek justice, answers and the return of loved ones still missing, or at least help to humanize them?

I’m not saying that we aren’t as Black folk at all moved by the death and disappearance of Black lives. Only that this crisis summons no urgency, no compelling afterthought that prompts a plan to move forward into action. No townhall meetings. No demonstrations outside city hall, police headquarters, or the nation’s capital.

No piercing collective cry rising from our communities to an undeniable, unignorable crescendo. No sense among our mass compilation of innumerable daily posts on social media— from the ridiculous and obscene, and incessant twerking, to blissful indulgence—that this crisis is burgeoning among us. It is as if we suffer mass selective amnesia, at least have become selective in our outrages, tolerances and causes.

We bury the reports and news of murdered and missing Black bodies in the recesses of our minds, relegate them, consciously or unconsciously, to the back pages of our daily lives, or to our mental archives as hazy news blurbs. Even if our hearts cannot completely avoid grieving for this empirical extinguishing of Black bodies and souls.

We major in minors and minor in majors. Tweet to virality about Keke Palmer’s choice to publicly expose her hinder assets as Usher serenades her to the chagrin of her baby daddy.

What if we tweeted about murdered and missing Black women and girls with the same fervor and consistency, made that go viral?

But Brother Fountain, don’t you think you’re being too harsh? I can already hear it. My response:

I am not harsher than the stabbing pain of a grieving mother to a murdered daughter whom she must now bury, or who is still missing, having suddenly vanished from this earth without a trace, like a vapor, (like Diamond and Tionda Bradley). Not harsher than the grave.

Not harsher than this crisis that demands, yearns, for our attention.

‘I Still Believe In Journalism’

I have said before and I will say again: That if this many dogs—or cats—were missing or slain, “we” would be up in arms. If the killers, abductors or assaulters of these Black bodies were thought or known to be white, we would engage in riotous protest, shout, “Burn it down.” And yet, we are not so moved to action.

Indeed the sun rises and sets each day, the seasons come and go, and this collective case of missing and murdered Black women does not grace the daily agenda of Black life or Black urgency in America, nor in our local communities, some of which have become virtual news deserts. Does not rise to the level of critical importance so that the issue is never far from our lips, our prayers, or the pulpits of so-called spirit-filled and led Black churches on Sunday mornings. Neither is there a concerted national effort among us to save us and bring more attention to this issue with the intent to resolve it.

As a veteran journalist, I have waged the battle inside some of America’s most storied newsrooms to write stories about Black deaths and lives. And I have seen white—and Black—editors’ eyes glaze over as I pitched such stories. Still, I persevered in the telling of these stories even when editors told me not to, and even when other reporters expressed little-to-no interest in them, believing that these stories, our stories, are also “news.”

And yet, most disappointing in carrying these stories to fruition—having done the painstaking and emotionally draining reporting, and carrying them against the grain to publication—is the milquetoast to nonreaction of our own people. And yet, I believe that we must stay on the wall. Speak the truth. Shine the light. Continue to sound the alarm through this vehicle called journalism, even as we reimagine journalism in these times.

I still believe in journalism. In its purity, which seeks those who embrace its foundational ideals and principles of truth, fact, and loyalty to readers. In its existence as the Fourth Estate guaranteed by the First Amendment. As defender of democracy, justice and freedom for all, even the least of these.

I and others have risked being pigeonholed by some in an industry that regards Black journalists who want to write stories about Black lives, deaths and issues affecting Black people—even if not exclusively—as one-trick ponies. They regard us as being filled with biases rather than invaluable insight. (Even if, the truth is that we are no less complete journalists able to cover any and every story. Give us oxygen and send us to the moon, and we will find and write the story.)

These same critics never question the ability of white reporters or journalists of other races and ethnicities to cover stories about their own, and, in fact, greenlight their pursuit of stories about the African-American community as they become so-called experts on the Black condition. This despite their own inherent biases as “outsiders looking in,” and arriving in American mainstream newsrooms having grown up in mostly white neighborhoods and attended mostly white schools from kindergarten through college, without a clue of Black life in America.

The stories produced are often jaded, shortsighted, filled with stereotype, inaccurate, and more harmful to the Black community. And our issues ultimately too often are filtered through the lens of white America, which is even more detrimental due to the dearth of news for us by us.

Truth is, I don’t expect white America necessarily to care. But what about Black America?

Email: [email protected]

#JusticeforJelaniDay

John W. Fountain
John W. Fountain
Professor of Journalism at Roosevelt University | [email protected] | Website

John W. Fountain is a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University and a 2021-22 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Ghana, where he is a visiting lecturer at the University of Ghana-Legon and researching his project titled, “Hear Africa Calling: Portraits of Black Americans Drawn to The Motherland.”

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