If more evidence were needed of how black bodies are pawns in political chess, look no further than Sunday's episode of Meet the Press.
Just days after nine African Americans were murdered inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in what many agree was an act of anti-black terrorism, Chuck Todd and his producers decided that the expanding dialogue about gun violence and consideration of stricter gun control measures should become more "colorblind." Read: less indicting of white supremacy, pathology and violence.
So they aired a segment on gun violence that exclusively featured black men in New York's Sing Sing prison who had been locked up on murder charges. All the men had used guns to commit their crimes.
"The circumstances you are about to see are very different from the racist violence in Charleston," said Todd. "In this case, the inmates are African American that you're going to hear from. But their lessons remain important. We simply ask you to look at this as a color-blind issue, as about just simply gun violence."
Right, because what people need is a "very different" conversation, one that doesn't reckon with the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow or the continued depraved and racist violence endured by generations of black Americans.
Todd now claims to be—after first defending the segment—apologetic, but the message has already been issued loud and clear: To keep America safe, guns should be taken out of the hands of Scary Black Men.
On the show, panelist and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson had noted the misleading lack of diversity in the prison clip and tried to steer the conversation back on course, but Todd quickly deflected such attention. He instead focused on how important it is to talk about the "culture" of guns, which makes it a more "politically difficult" conversation to have.
Let's be clear: Taking a detour onto a loop about black male murderers at Sing Sing during a national conversation about white supremacist terrorism reeks of media manipulation of the implicit and explicit racist bias of viewers. And that's what racism looks like in its most insidious form.
Racism doesn't always come draped in white hoods and Confederate flags. It hides in plain sight. Todd and company engaged in the dismissive dehumanization of black people that's often more diabolical than the redneck minstrelsy masquerading as conservative media.
The rationale seemed to be that it's easier to advance the discussion of gun control with white America when the focus is on black aggressors instead of black victims. Even more insulting, the Sing Sing video—which can be seen in full here—was produced prior to the massacre of innocent black Americans, but Todd and his staff decided it shouldn't be "put off" because it was just too "important."
An anti-black terrorist alleged to have gunned down black people at church is apparently not important enough to change gun laws. Black children being forced to play dead, as one kid allegedly had to do inside of Emanuel AME to avoid being shot, isn't important enough to change gun laws. The murders of black fathers, mothers and grandmothers as they prayed in their Southern church is not important enough, despite the fact that Southern, conservative white males are more likely to own and carry guns.
And they aren't the only ones. According to data compiled by the New York City Police Department, white suspects were more often found in possession of weapons and drugs during a stop-and-frisk search, even though black people were more likely to be stopped. Plus, "the New York Police Department uncovered a weapon in one out of every 49 stops of white New Yorkers, while for Latinos a weapon was found for every 71 stops, and for African Americans that number was 93 stops."
School shooters in the United States are 97 percent male and 79 percent white, according to PoliticalResearch.org: "Ninety percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of white, often upper-middle class, perpetrators."
Why did NBC not focus on facts like these if the aim was to get viewers on board with stricter gun control legislation?
The bottom line is that white people are not perceived as dangerous to other white people, even when they romanticize the Confederacy and cling to their guns. So instead NBC decided to traffic in one of the oldest and most racist stereotypes under the flimsy guise of having a "colorblind" conversation about gun violence, despite the fact that black America had just endured the worst terrorist attack since 1963, when four girls were killed at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
Meet the (white) press.