We should have known it was the media since back in 1968 it could have made the triple matter something of importance. I quoted Adrian Walker of the Globe earlier noting he said: “The likely truth is that the Boston Police Department of the time didn’t much care about the slayings. It was Roxbury, the victims were black, and they weren’t prominent.” That was true and I agreed with him. But he missed the main culprits who were his fellows in the media.
Where was the media when, to quote him, “one of the worst massacres in this city’s bloody history”occurred? I wonder if Walker ever wondered about that? As a newspaperman shouldn’t he have tried to figure out why his newspaper and the rest of the media greatly failed in not covering this “massacre.”
The complaints of did not fall on deaf ears in the media. tThe Boston Globe’s editor Thomas Winship conceded the black community raise the legitimate question. He said “in retrospect, I think we overplayed and stretched it a bit.” He could not defend his coverage of a high noon rape, robbery and bloody murder of a 27 year old nurse in her apartment on Commonwealth Avenue near the Public Garden.
The Globe reporter noted that one of the eleven black women murdered in 1979, Bobby Jean Graham, lived in the same building as Smith. He said: “That case did not receive comparable press situation.” Why would it. She was slain a few blocks away and found in a rear alley 6:30 am having suffered blunt trauma to her midsection by a blunt instrument. The Smith home invasion, rape and murder puts everyone on edge; people can reason they could avoid being put in the same situation as poor Graham.
Except for the Globe all the other news outlets defended their coverage. The Herald said it would have done the same coverage had Smith been a black woman;.Channel 5 was motivated by Smith’s background, stature in the community and her supposedly safe address but also the shocking nature of the crime; Channel 4 motivated by the breaking and entry, rape and the security issue.
The spokesman for Channel 7 said the media covers murders unevenly. “the media treat violence in the black community more a matter of routine than in white areas.” The Phoenix critic felt “when a black woman gets killed in Roxbury the press and many other people tend to react by saying, “What’s new?”
So what’s the conclusion. Do black lives matter?
They do with the Boston police except for the time of the triple homicide. That may reflect the black community more recent activism and alertness, or the influence of black police officers which would have been much less in 1968 before a person like Bolt had a high position on the force. It demonstrates the necessity of a police department reflecting the community it polices.
They do not when it comes to the FBI or the Justice Department. The FBI let the triple murder pass when it should have been solved to protect its informant. It made no appearance in the 11 black women homicide matters. Neither did members of the Justice Department in situations that may have involved conspiracies to deprive blacks of their civil right.
They don’t when it comes to the media. The problem with Walker and others in the media is they don’t look inward. They are always pointing the fingers at others but how could the media justify almost totally ignoring the triple homicide of Dixon, Barrett, and Smith. Even worse if we listen to the Channel 7 spokesperson and the Phoenix critic they were quite blunt in suggesting black lives do not matter.
Aside from all the others, what about the rest of us? Are we as interested in the killing of a person of another race as one of our own? As a white would I have been as concerned with the story about a person like Deborah Smith if she had been black? Or, if I were a black would I have been worried about the Boston Strangler who murdered white women were? During the January to May 1979 period when black women lived in fear there is no news about white women doing the same.
I made this presentation because of how little was done about a horrid event like the triple homicide of Dixon,Barrett and Smith which shouted out that in 1968 black lives mattered little. I jumped forward a dozen years and found a substantial change at least among the police. It is true that many attitudes not only towards blacks but also about others have changed substantially since the late Sixties. As for the present, I’d like to think that what racism existed in the media at the beginning of 1980 has gone away.