About the Cocaine Apartment and the Tender Reporting of a White Victim
The media doesn’t even TRY to ACT like it isn’t engaging in shady ass biased practices anymore. We are all clear that press has never been objective, and outlets lean one way or another, based on who is behind them and the people they hire. They have set agendas and what they cover and how they cover are strategic decisions. Unfortunately, when most of the people in media are white, it means that their biases are going to affect the reporting of stories based on color more often than not.
The Daily Beast reported on the story of a white woman (Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny) who was found dead at a place known to be a “cocaine apartment” in New York City.
Below is a screenshot of the top of the article.
If I didn’t even mention the woman’s color, you would have been able to guess, based on how gentle this piece was written. It is almost laughable how they treated that story with care. You’d think they were reporting on how she died in a church or something.
The fact that right under headline was the sentence “A beautiful Long Island dermatologist and mother of three died after a night out partying.” Wow. The first thing she is doing to paint the picture of this woman is to remind us that she is beautiful and has three kids. Plus, the company she was keeping was of an accomplished producer. LOOK, YALL. She wasn’t just hanging with hoodrats! YAY. If she were Black, they would have used this opportunity to remind us that she abandoned her 3 kids to go party in NYC and it doesn’t matter who she was hanging with. That part would be left out unless the person was worth describing in some villainous way.
Then we get told that she had a “night of blowing off steam.” You mean she had a night of who knows what types of shenanigans? Right. That’s what you meant. Because when white woman takes to the city to party, it is self-care. Yup.
In spite of the fact that the headline of the piece says she “overdoses,” it takes 2 paragraphs into the article for this writer to even bring up the idea that she MIGHT have been POSSIBLY doing cocaine. Talk about burying the lede. They even had a source tell them that it is rumored that she liked drugs. WORD? I wouldn’t have thought. Are you sure though? We don’t want to accuse this woman of things that are unlikely. Because being found in the doorway of a place known to be littered with drugs just gets you scratching your head on what really could have happened.
In the bending backwards of ensuring that this article does not speak too harshly of the woman who died, the word “overdose” appears on the page 3 times. One of those times was in the title of the article and the other time was in the video reporting the story. If she was a woman of color and they found her within 3 blocks of somewhere THOUGHT to be a crack house, the story would start off with “Police suspect she used drugs.” Stories reporting on drugs and Black people are never shy about throwing out guesses with the cowardly “allegedly” immediately following so they cover their asses. Here, they are so cautious about planting ideas that they even hold back on talking about what is the most likely option.
But here she is. Found dead without panties on, and we get ONE paragraph about the state she was found in. There was no guessing about how much drugs she might have taken or what illicit activity she might have engaged in. They even try to punch up the place she was last seen alive. Rich, white people get “cocaine apartment.” I wonder if that is next door to the heroine loft, which I heard is right by the meth mansion. She was at a crack house. Let’s call a spade a spade.
As the story continues, we learn more about how she had been an upstanding citizen with a background full of interesting life lived. Let her have been Black. We would have learned about that one time when she stole the last pink starburst in her best friend’s pack. Nope. We instead learn that this woman was a beauty queen who graduated high school at the top of her class, and she got a scholarship to med school.
The person who died is white, rich, skinny, blond. Seems her only non-privilege is the fact that she’s a woman. But: white woman IS its own, as we are well aware. She got the faberge egg treatment that is typical. She was handled with the utmost concern.
This is what you get when people see themselves in victims. The woman who wrote that piece is also white. What is happening here is empathy. When our media is full of white people telling stories, they get to color the way they tell stories involving Black people and other people of color. There is no empathy when they report on us because they don’t see themselves in the people they are reporting. They see thugs. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is seeing yourself in them. Media lacks empathy for people of color so we get lambasted. We don’t get our full humanity recognized. We get finger pointing and strong language that blames us for the state we were found in.
It lets me know that we need more diversity in news rooms and in outlets. Most importantly, we need to stop the vilifying of people of color as inherently bad, and white people as “the good ones.” So when crimes are committed or people die, we do not jump to a script that paints people as angels or demons based on how much melanin is in their skin.
This piece is written so gently that I think Barney might use it to create lyrics in his next “I love you” song. It’s so dainty that you have to read it as Enya music plays in the background. This story is reported on with so much sensitivity that it made Drake cry.
Really though. They said “cocaine apartment.” No one laughed at the absurdity? They legitimized a place where people do white powder by acting like it is part of the condo association.
I do appreciate how nice this article is because it shows that people CAN speak well of those who succumb (allegedly or really) to drugs. We do have it in us to be kind about those who overdose or die any way besides homicide. We can find nice things to say, even when someone might have lost their lives in cloudy ways. It is a “this is too bad” not a “we told you so” tone, as it should be. Now, if only we could extend this honor to those who do not look like Kiersten Rickenbach Cerveny or inhabit her social class.