Sunday, November 18, 2007

Police Kill a Man in Brooklyn

On Monday, 12 November, Khiel Coppin, an 18 year old black man, was shot and killed by five NYPD police officers responding to a domestic dispute call placed by Coppin's mother. The police officers, who claim to have believed that Coppin was armed, fired twenty shots at him, eight of which hit and killed him. No gun was found on his body, but rather a black hairbrush.

The New York Times does not seem to think that it is relevant that Khiel Coppin was black. Examine its coverage, here and here. In the first article, Coppin's racial identity is never mentioned; and it is only at the end of the second article that the Times mentions that he is black, in a comparison to the shooting of Sean Bell last year.

The implication, of course, is that Coppin's being a black man is irrelevant information that does not need to be explicitly acknowledged or emphasized. Readers, in looking at the accompanying pictures, can figure out for themselves that he was black.

Playing down Coppin's black identity is troubling and odd. Perhaps the Times believes, because the five officers who shot him were not all white, that his race does not matter. Such logic is highly questionable, as City Councilman Charles Barron points out: "I don't care whether they are black, Latino, or white, when they join the force most of them turn blue," he said. "When you turn blue, you police the white community one way and you police the black community another way."

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