Diary

The Killing of a Black Man in Philadelphia is as Commonplace as a Traffic Jam on the Schuylkill Expressway.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

The main page of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s website listed, at 2:45 PM EST, the following stories:

Five main page stories referencing race.

You know what wasn’t on the main page? Not one single story about the black men being killed on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, as of 11:59 PM EST on November 10th, 427 people have bled out their life’s blood in the city’s streets so far this year, a 40% increase over the same day last year. Those 427 homicides are good for 7th place all time on Philly’s homicide list . . . with 51 days left in the year. With a rate of 1.356 killings per day, Philadelphia is on track for 69 more homicides in 2020, for a grand total of 496, which would easily push 1989’s 489 murders out of the way for 2nd place.

But, not to worry: 1990’s record of 505 seems out of reach.

Maybe, like Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961, they’ll put an asterisk beside this year’s 2nd place finish, given that it’s a leap year, and Philly had an extra day for mayhem.

According to the Philadelphia shootings victims dashboard, 244 out of 295 fatal shootings in the city (as of November 8nd) were of black males; that’s 82.7%. Yet if there has been a story about this in the Inquirer, I have missed it.

I did, however, find this Letter to the Editor:

Letter: Do black lives matter to the Philly media?

by Will O’Brien, Philadelphia | Posted: March 22, 2016 | 3:01 AM EDT

Do black lives matter to media?

A recent stabbing in Rittenhouse Square was certainly tragic, and I grieve for the family and friends of the victim (“Rittenhouse Stabbing Arrest,” Tuesday). But I have to express my frustration that, once again, the murder of a white person merits front-page coverage as well as follow-up stories, updates on the arrest, and almost certainly coverage of the trial months from now. At the same time, numerous murders in communities of color are relegated to the back pages, often with little more than a paragraph – and practically never with follow-up stories.

One local television newscast started with cursory coverage of two killings in an African American neighborhood before leading into the Rittenhouse Square incident with “But the big story tonight . . .” And it continued to be a lead story several days later.

This has been the infuriating and persistent pattern in the Inquirer and other Philadelphia media for all of the 30 years I have lived here. This sends a very strong message that white lives are more valuable than black and Latino lives. The death of a white person is seen as more important, more newsworthy, and more tragic than the death of a person of color. This is precisely why the Black Lives Matter movement is urgently needed and why many white people’s response that “all lives matter” is a milquetoast assertion that ignores harsh social realities.

Our media must do better by not playing into and even affirming long-standing racist attitudes that have wounded our society for too long.

Since Mr O’Brien has lived in Philadelphia for 30 years, he must remember the days and days coverage of the murder of Cute Little White Girl Rian Thal.

His letter was 4½ years ago, before George Floyd, before Breonna Taylor and before Walter Wallace, all heavily covered by the Inquirer and the rest of the credentialed media. Their killings were covered because they wound up being political flashpoints.

But the hundreds of black Philadelphians, primarily black males? Unless the victim was a Somebody, the Inquirer didn’t care. If the victim is a white male, and the shooting probably accidental, yeah, that merits not just one but two stories.

Mr O’Brien’s letter was written in 2016, when the city saw 277 homicides. Philly left that total in the dust somewhere around August 18th. I did not note the date that homicide #277 occurred, but noted that at the end of August 17th there had been 276 homicides.

As of 11:59 PM EDT yesterday, 276 homicides were recorded in the City of Brotherly Love. That’s a 31% increase over the same day last year, more than the entire year’s murder totals in 2013 and 2014, and just one fewer than the entire year total for 2016.¹

In 230 days, Philadelphia has seen 276 homicides. That’s 1.2 murders per day. With 136 days remaining, if the average holds, that’s an additional 163 homicides, for a projected total of 439 people.

I don’t know how many gang-bangers in Philadelphia read The First Street Journal or my stories on RedState, but sometimes it seems that they’ve taken what I’ve written as a personal challenge. Philadelphia’s good citizens raised that 1.2 homicides per day in mid-August to 1.356 by the 10th of November, not quite three months, and the projected total from 439 to 496.

Mr O’Brien asked, “Do black lives matter to (the Philadelphia) media?” The short answer is no, they don’t matter, because, to be very blunt about it, another black man dying in Philly’s streets just isn’t news anymore. The murder of a black man in the city is as commonplace an event as a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway.

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