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Media Coverage To Blame For Shooting Outrage?

Robbie Owens Robbie Owens
Robbie grew up in northeast Texas, in a tiny town where her fami...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –  In the wake of a fatal police involved shooting, Dallas’ Dixon Circle neighborhood came dangerously close to violence last week.  As television news crews broadcast live images of the angry crowd spilling onto the streets, many have wondered whether the coverage helped encourage the chaos.

“Absolutely,” says UT Arlington Sociology Professor Krystal Beamon.  “Anytime there’s an opportunity where the cameras are watching us… you’re going to see that anger.”  But, Beamon watched the riveting TV images with more than a passing interest.

“My father grew up here.  He went to Lincoln High School.  I grew up not too far from herein Oak Cliff, “ says Beamon.  “When you see images that are very negative of your community, it’s going to bring a certain level of disappointment and sadness, because you know there’s so much more going on here.”

As a sociology professor, Beamon says she understands the complex dynamics that allow a community to mourn the death of a convicted drug dealer while also calling for safe communities.

“You have a community that is cyclically economically depressed.  And so that breeds a certain level of despair and hopelessness, and so now the cameras are on and people are listening to us.  And we’ve been disenfranchised for so long, and so I have a voice,” says Beamon.  “People are watching and listening and we want to show that we’re angry about other things, including this.”

James Harper, a convicted felon, was shot and killed in an altercation with a Dallas Police officer after fleeing a known drug house.  Beamon says the raw grief of the Harper family notwithstanding, she is just as certain there were many in the crowd who were drawn by the presence of the television cameras—and the catalyst for their anger could just as easily have been something else.

Often during situations of televised urban unrest, the crowds will disperse as soon as the cameras leave.  But, Beamon still insists that are lessons for the greater community that extend beyond the emotion of the moment.

“We need to give a voice to the people who feel voiceless.  And really pay attention to what’s going on here and what the people here need and want.”

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