Ralph Abernathy pointing to anti-Martin Luther King Jr. billboard

If you pay attention to the media, you will become used to a type of language used to describe the events of the news cycle. You will hear terms like “allegedly,” “systematically,” and other descriptive words to characterize the day’s events. 

As a Black community, we have been, and continue to be, keenly aware of how language is another tool in white supremacy to undermine and devalue the Black existence. And in the wake of the Buffalo white supremacist terrorist attack, this language is much more critical to our community. We need to understand where we are as a community and, more importantly, where the country is leaning as we approach yet another crucial election cycle. 

That language can give evidence to the sentiment of the people speaking it and offer some guidance as to how we as a Black community should be reacting and moving in the coming months and in the future.

Let’s start with the language of white supremacy. After the Buffalo shooting, Northwestern University Professor of American Studies, Dr. Steven Thrasher recently posted on his Twitter that the Associated Press published a story “Noting that in AP copy, 18-year-old Michael Brown was an ’18-year old Black man,’ while 18-year-old Payton Gendron is a ‘white teenager.’”

This opens up a conversation on how mainstream media will adultify young Black boys and infantilize white men. This allows for further discussion about how language in media is still a tool to support white supremacy and infantilize white America as a naïve group that is always reacting to news instead of being the driving force behind it. White folks seem to be surprised at how white folks are acting these days. 

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