Two people brazenly and brutally stomp and beat a woman outside a north side Milwaukee gas station while other people watch. Then, a video of it turns up online (warning: It’s disturbing).
Yet, if you Google the video, you discover that this story is getting a lot of national media attention on various websites – and almost none locally.
Why is the Milwaukee media not giving this story more coverage? Someone knows who these attackers are and who this woman is. More publicity would increase the chances that we would learn more about this incident, and the context surrounding it, and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
Was this a hate crime? "B*tch, wrong hood b*tch," a person says repeatedly as the woman, who appears white in the video, is beaten by two African-American attackers outside the gas station while another man watches.
Every assault involving people of different races is not automatically a hate crime under the law, which is the only reason I posed that as a question, at this point, not a statement. As one commenter posted on a social media site, the context could make a difference in how we perceive it, so I am hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions without knowing more.
"The video doesn't give any background on the incident. The background could even be that the white lady molested the children of the black couple. Maybe she belonged to a different gang and was in the wrong gang's neighborhood. Maybe she was a crack addict that was trying to steal money. White people are not always innocent the same as black people are not always guilty," the commenter wrote.
Fair point. However, in this video, the woman appears helpless and doesn’t even fight back. What happened to this woman appears obviously appalling, and it’s hard to imagine there could be any justification for it. Obviously the term "wrong hood" seems to imply motive. Right before the beating, one of the attackers refers to "you talking crazy."
For people to watch the attack as it happened and then put the video online is also further evidence that there is something deeply imbalanced going on in society (further evidenced by the horrific shootings of two journalists, also filmed, by that Virginia madman).
I believe that Milwaukee is a great city in many ways. I work in and appreciate a lot about Milwaukee, and I believe that there are more good people in the city than there are people who would engage in behavior like this. Such stories and videos are ugly and increase tensions and even stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean that reality shouldn’t be reported. I think this is news.
It’s obvious that there are very troubling trend lines in Milwaukee right now relating to the disrespect for human life.
There’s even a public group on Facebook called "Milwaukee Fights" that I just stumbled on while searching for news coverage of the aforementioned video. It contains many other videos of people fighting with each other or being attacked. It has more than 1,800 members. There’s no evidence that group’s page is linked to this video in anyway; it’s just more disturbing stuff. Many of those videos are equally disturbing as this one. The victims and perpetrators in the few videos I could stand to watch on that group page were African-American.
Could these videos be – yet another – touching off point for a deeper, broader and much needed community conversation? Perhaps. However, the issues are so complex and entrenched that it’s getting hard to know where to start.
The gas station beating video has also been circulating around social media. I could find scant local media coverage. Fox 6 did run a story on the video this Wednesday. That story reported that the attack occurred on Aug. 18 near Locust and Teutonia, and that no one reported the crime to police, including the victim.
The story also labelled the attack a "confrontation." It’s not a confrontation. It’s a beating. The anchor calls it a "violent fight." It’s not a fight when the victim is just being stomped on.
It’s worth wondering how the media would handle this video if the races were reversed or if the person doing the stomping was a cop. I think it would be getting a lot of attention. People would demand action. The media would ask for the community’s help in identifying the suspects, and they’d replay the video so much it would become a rally cry for protests. Contrast how often they replayed the video of that cop who used force to subdue a Lamborghini driver.
It’s odd that this one is getting almost no attention, but it doesn’t fit into any of the prevailing media narratives.
Let’s hope the media start more aggressively covering the story.
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.