You probably have heard about the tragic murder of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes in Houston. She was shot for no apparent reason when she was in a car with her family. The New York Times pumped the story hard–unlike the similar killings of other black children–because of a report that the murderer was white. The Times covered the story on January 1:
The authorities described the gunman as a white man in his 40s with a beard, wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt and driving a red pickup truck.
The image of a white man suddenly firing on a black family raised questions about whether the shooting had been racially motivated.
And on January 2:
The police said Wednesday that they still had not identified the gunman. But the case has drawn the attention of national civil rights activists and fueled speculation that the shooting was racially motivated. The gunman is white, the police said, and Jazmine was black.
The Times ran a more fulsome story on January 5:
Relatives of Jazmine Barnes, the 7-year-old Texas girl who was fatally shot inside a moving car, grieved on Saturday at an emotionally charged rally not far from where the gunman opened fire on a family that was out on a morning coffee run.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered to honor Jazmine and to urge law enforcement to find the man who the police said attacked on Dec. 30 without provocation.
Jazmine, who was black, was in the car with her mother and three sisters when a white man pulled his red pickup truck beside them and began shooting, the police said. A bullet struck Jazmine in the head and she died at the scene, the police said.
In the crowd, a call-and-response chant demanded “Justice for Jazmine.” They embraced one another. A pastor led them in prayer.
Ms. Washington told The Houston Chronicle that she believed the attack was racially motivated, and the case has drawn attention from civil rights activists across the country.
Lee Merritt, a Philadelphia-based lawyer representing Jazmine’s family, said on Saturday he believed the shooting had the markings of a hate crime, in part because of the “randomness and unprovoked nature” of the attack.
United States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Houston, said the racial dynamics of the case were apparent. “Do not be afraid to call this what it seems to be: a hate crime,” she told the crowd, demanding an investigation by the Justice Department.
“No peace, no justice,” the crowd chanted. Many parents said the shooting put them in fear of their own lives and those of their children.
The Times did quote one voice of sanity:
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, Tex., said at a news conference this week that it was too early for investigators to speculate about the gunman’s motive because he had not yet been identified.
Good point! But it didn’t deter the Times. Unfortunately–from the standpoint of the Times and others who tried to make political hay out of the truly senseless killing of Jazmine Barnes–the police caught the murderer, and he is black. Just one day later, on January 6, the paper had to eat crow: “A Twist in the Jazmine Barnes Case as a Suspect Is Charged With Capital Murder.” It was the usual story. The murderer was a gang member who thought he was retaliating against a hostile gang and shot into the wrong car. How many times have we heard that?
The authorities identified the suspect, Eric Black Jr., 20, and said he admitted to taking part in the Dec. 30 shooting.
Contrary to initial reports that the suspect was white, Mr. Black is black. It was a revelation that swiftly changed the narrative of a case that had drawn the attention of national civil rights activists amid speculation that the shooting was racially motivated.
“Changed the narrative”? Whose narrative?
The same day, the Times had a new spin in its Science section: Jazmine Barnes Case Shows How Trauma Can Affect Memory. Eyewitness testimony relating to a sudden, traumatic incident is unreliable? Who knew?
Lori Brown, a criminologist at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., said “eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence you can have” because people try to understand how a traumatic event could have happened by using what they know about the world. “Unfortunately,” she said, “we fill in the gaps.”
In other words: the narrative takes over.
I think we can assume that from now on, the murder of Jazmine Barnes will be relegated to the not-news limbo in which the killings of many other black children by black gang members have long resided. Don’t expect the New York Times to be interested. For more on this theme, see Heather MacDonald’s piece in City Journal.