On March 31st, 2019, Nipsey Hussle, otherwise known as, Ermias Joseph Asghedom, an up and coming rapper was shot right outside of his store in the front parking lot. Prior to the shooting, the perpetrator and him had gotten in a small altercation inside the store. Nipsey’s community was immediately up in arms about his untimely death; they had a vigil for him in his parking lot the night he was shot. In a CNN clip, a man from the community spoke about Nipsey in an honorable way, saying how “he is someone who put our community on the map. People thought our community was just about violence, and Nipsey put a change to that.” This man was speaking to the stereotypes that typically surround communities that are made up of marginalized identities. He recognizes Nipsey as an exception to the stereotypes, someone who people could look to as changing the stereotypes.
During the vigil that same night, there was a disturbance that caused mass panic and the crowd became a stampede. Police dressed in riot gear rushing in trying to disperse crowd and break up fights that ensued in the panic. The insurance that there would be police in riot gear shows how fearful people are of this community and their capabilities, whether or not their interpretations are accurate. The CNN clip seemed neutral until the end. Without fail, they mentioned Hussle’s criminal history, either trying to create a motive for his killer or paint him as someone who deserved to die. The reporter mentioned that “Nipsey Hussle’s Facebook page suggest that he was a member of the rolling 60s street gang and just a half hour before he was shot he tweeted ‘having strong enemies is a blessing.’” By posing Nipsey as a possible threat, this reporter was doing what every reporter before him has done. He was justifying the death of the rapper and not acknowledging him for some of his positive contributions to this world. Will there ever be a time when a White reporter can look at the death of a Black person and recognize them for their positive contributions rather than their negative ones? Will this only be possible if there are more reporters of color in the field?
This is a special post in a series authored by students in Professor Wolfe’s Spring 2019 Research Lab. We are studying the experiences of students of color at PWIs.