By now, we have all heard of the Marjory Stoneman High shooting in Florida that put lead through our hearts on a day where love and support was supposed to bring people together. One aspect of this tragic event that has escaped a lot of attention is the ignorant perspective defense attorneys have used to frame Nikolas Cruz, infantilizing him into a “broken child,” because the recent death of his mother. Numerous news outlets have put out articles with this quote in their headlines. At a glance, these headlines feel as though these networks are justifying this inexcusable, volatile behavior of a man who allegedly killed 17 innocent children. This must stop. It’s not morally right to humanize this cutthroat slayer.
It is reported that Cruz fired at least 17 fatal shots, snatching children from their families and futures. It is reported that this man — not a child — strolled into a Subway after his heinous crimes and ordered a drink unsuspectingly. So, why is it that the media humanize him? Why is it that after getting instant alerts of a shooter, nobody suspected the white guy ordering a drink at Subway with a crazed look in his eyes?
Nobody is referring to Cruz for what he is because he’s just another “troubled” white kid who didn’t get the help he needed. If the shooter was a minority, news outlets would be referring to him as a terrorist, a murderer, a monster. Laws and legislation would be heavily influenced by his minority status, because he is a national threat. So, why isn’t it the same for Cruz? Why does his white skin excuse him from the weight of his crimes?
Because, our country adopts an unwarranted exceptionalism to people committing a crime if their skin isn’t so pigmented as the person standing next to them.
The media double standard on crime extends to our justice system. While this racial disparity is perpetuated in the media, it is also reflected in the justice system.
A 2016 Florida Herald-Tribune investigation, “Bias on the bench,” found that Florida judges lack consistency in sentencing criminals, and this inconsistency is directly related to racial disparity. The sentencing system is broken because African Americans end up spending more time in jail than whites do for crimes of equal stature. The study found that even for third-degree murder, blacks were consistently sentenced more harshly than whites.
American sportscaster Dale Hansen said it perfectly in his segment on ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA when he stated, “If it was a Muslim or a Mexican doing the shooting, how many new laws and how much money would we spend then to stop the madness? But because it’s almost always a white kid, there’s just nothing we can do.”
America always prides itself on being the land of the free and that it is for the people and equality, but it is a part of this in group-favoritism model that unfairly favors the majority white population regardless of their actions. News outlets and social media humanize this monster of a man, trying to evoke a sense of sympathy because he has had a troubled life — haven’t we all? If an African American kid did the same thing Cruz did on Valentine’s Day, there’s no doubt whether he would be referred to as a beast, a villain, a monster who needs to get the harshest punishment possible. The double standard on crime needs to end. Give Cruz the penalty he deserves.