Why Now?

Neha Mukherjee, the editor for smerconish.com, is a rising sophomore at Brown University. She is a Pre-Medical student concentrating in Political Science and has a profound interest in journalism. A recent graduate of the Episcopal Academy, she was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Neha Mukherjee, the editor for smerconish.com, is a rising sophomore at Brown University. She is a Pre-Medical student concentrating in Political Science and has a profound interest in journalism. A recent graduate of the Episcopal Academy, she was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs.

What a week it has been. 

72 Philadelphia Police officers were taken off the streets after posting racist, violent, and sexist Facebook messages. A database called The Plain View Project compiled over 5,000 of these controversial Facebook posts from current and past police officers around the country, calling into question their ability to serve. 

Media coverage over the police postings were shared with another race related issue. Kyle Kashuv, a conservative second amendment activist and Parkland shooting survivor had his acceptance to Harvard University rescinded over racist comments that he had made two years ago. The New York Times reported “Kashuv’s comments were repulsive — blatantly racist and anti-Semitic. He wrote the N-word 12 times and then explained that he was good at typing that word. ‘Practice uhhhhhh makes perfect.’”

But that is not all. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also faced scrutiny this week for his comments about his past work with segregationists when he stated, “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.” This received huge media blowback and incited requests that Biden apologized for his statements. While some called his statements racist, others such as The Washington Post issued editorials entitled “Biden, again, chose his words poorly. But his broader point was right.”

Needless to say, racial tensions have dominated the headlines in the past week. It is not just this week, but the past couple of years that have seen increased attention towards race related issues. 

This leads me to a critical question: Why is this happening now? 

There are two trains of thought in approaching this issue. One argues that society is inherently more racist now than ever before. Either people are progressing to possess more racist sentiments, or they feel more comfortable expressing them in the current political climate. A 2019 study completed by Pew Research Center stated, “Most Americans (65%) – including majorities across racial and ethnic groups – say it has become more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views since Trump was elected president.” 

Another approach may be that we are living in a time period that is more “race conscious.” There has always been racial insensitivity, but now more people - and media outlets - are realizing that it is a real issue that must be discussed. This could in part be attributed to the rise of social media. Another Pew Research Center study revealed, “Eight-in-ten blacks say social media help shed light on rarely discussed issues,” speaking about movements such as #BlackLivesMatter.

There is also the fact that since the police officer postings were published on Facebook they certainly led to a public discussion. Was it Kyle Kashuv’s 13 tweets explaining his debate with Harvard that lead to the heavy media coverage of his racist remarks? Social Media platforms this past week were also filled with discussions on the Biden-Booker debate on a possible apology. So more than an increase in racism, it is possible that we now have a platform to inform the public on the race related problems in our society.  

There is no doubt that media coverage of racial issues has increased. But the question remains: why now?