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Protesting Pictures Of Death

NBC kicked off its coverage of the latest round of Winter Olympics with a somber introduction from longtime sports commentator Bob Costas and news personality Matt Lauer that detailed the death of the Georgian Olympic luger participant Nodar Kumaritashvil.  After a brief description of the tragedy that happened earlier in the day, viewers were warned that the following pictures would be tough for some people to watch.  The video started just a few more seconds before Mr. Kumaritashvili’s horrific fatal crash shown in slow motion.

Since then, there have been complaints that the entire video clip of the accident was an insensitive grab at ratings.  The majority of the forty million or so Americans watching the opening ceremony had yet to see the video of doomed luger flying off the course and crashing into a metal pole.  It’s a safe assumption that some viewers didn’t even know that there was a fatal accident during the earlier practice runs.   And if that truly was the case, Mr. Kumaritashvili’s death was a newsworthy event of critical significance to the games of which NBC paid handsomely to broadcast exclusively and should be reported as such.  To downplay the affair or, even worse, fail to acknowledge it altogether, would have certainly been a clear cut case of poor professional judgment.

To hear such concern for the family and loved ones that Mr. Kumaritashvil leaves behind is truly touching.  Such care should be example to others.  People should be more empathetic to others who are dealing with pain or loss.  For example, I’m pretty sure the people of Haiti would have benefited from more sensitivity towards their dead.  Right after the earthquake that devastated the impoverished island nation it was commonplace to see images of dead Haitian bodies littering the streets.  I actually remember seeing images of the bodies Haitians being treated with total indifference as they were loaded onto the back of dump trucks with front end loaders.  I’m sure those people could have been treated with more sensitivity.

But what do the same people who are sick to their stomach to see the fatal crash of the unlucky Georgian Olympic competitor have to say about photo after photo of black bodies strewn about like litter?  Does it even register to some of us that the pictures we saw of people in the throes of rigor mortis we see were someone’s lost loved one?  Are such widespread images devastation and destruction and death easier to accept when the subjects remain anonymous?  Could it be that such mages are more acceptable when the subjects are black?  But even the images of people in New Orleans in the various stages of death, however gruesome, can compete with the images coming out of Haiti.

The only other time I can ever remember seeing such images of extensive death and destruction was when Katrina hit New Orleans.  Back then, it was nothing to see images of people floating face down in the water.  It was nothing to see surviving family members deep in the throes of anguish as they react to the news that a loved one was lost.  And one of the things most common between the two incidents is the fact that the people dealing with these cataclysms were mostly black.

Maybe I’m being overly sensitive to the plight of the people in Haiti.  Maybe when the earthquake hit Iran or China there were images floating around the internet of the bodies of their children in various states of decay.  Maybe after the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka there were images of dead bodies being dumped into a truck by a front end loader and I just never paid attention.

I know that here in America, we can be somewhat sensitive to the images of our dead.  For the longest time our government wouldn’t even let caskets draped with the American flag holding our dead soldiers to be photographed.  Casual images of our soldier’s broken bodies in the exact spot they died in whatever position or whatever condition would never make it to a public view without somebody being investigated for their unauthorized distribution of war secrets or invasion of privacy or something else just as asinine.  Unfortunately, we can’t hold anyone responsible for the invasion of a Haitian’s privacy.

To the family and friends of Mr. Kumaritashvili I extend my deepest apologies if I sound insensitive to their loss.  I don’t mean to.  But I want to use people’s protest of what happened at the Olympics as an example of how we can tolerate so much from one side of the racial barrier without batting an eye and then get so squeamish at something that pales in comparison from the other.  A lot of people in Haiti could have used some protest on their behalf.  It may not have changed anything.  The images would have probably still flowed through the blogosphere.  But at least we would’ve known that people cared about what was happening in Haiti and how those stories were being told.

Monday, February 15, 2010 - Posted by | Black Community, Life, Thoughts |

1 Comment »

  1. Peace Brotherpeacemaker,
    The state of the mind and the level of the conscience of society has not evolved to the point where the value that is assigned to the life of all citizens of the WORLD will be done indiscriminately. It would be wonderful if it could be as you suggest but I am not that optumistic. It would be a worthy campaign to to support.

    Comment by Akinwole | Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Reply

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