Columbia, MO – When you start your computer, the home page becomes news central. For AOL, the first of 7 to 10 slides are headlines and teasers, and is usually mundane. This morning it is about a murder in St. Martins, Missouri. A 15-year-old neighbor murdered 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten. Little St. Martins, just outside of Jefferson City, has become infamous.
There are four stories here. The first is Elizabeth and the outpouring of grief by the citizens of central Missouri. The second is an unusual twist; the accused killer is a 15-year-old girl whose name will be revealed in opened court when it is determined whether she should be charged as an adult.
The third story here is one that has been told before, but seems to have little effect. Elizabeth is a pretty-preteen Caucasian girl. There have been other murders in the middle of Middle America, some involving children. In fact, there are murders and abductions every day. However, in the opinion of this writer, the vast reporting of these murders seems to hit regional or national news only when the child is female, cute and white. Because this little girl was white, the press will convict her accused murder even before the first court hearing.
If the victim looked like a 9-year-old Shirley Temple Black, child star and former Unites States ambassador, the murder would be the lead story on every major news network.
In fact, CNN’s Nancy Grace has already made this Purina Tabloid Chow, which is the fourth newsworthy story. Her Wednesday report opened was clear; the accused is a “premeditated, malice, murder one suspect.” Her words being emphasized with voice and body language that convicted the accused in abstentia. Ladd Egan, News Director and anchor for KRCG, Jefferson City, confirmed the worse, “You are absolutely right.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the rate of murder in the United States has dropped significantly since 1973; blacks are victims of violent crime more are than twice as often as whites. Children under the age of 18 represent 12 percent of those victims.
Let’s combine the four and see what we have. If a cute white girl is murdered in small-town America, it will hit national news. But, if the child is of any race, from a major city and is the victim of, let’s say, a drive-by gang shooting, whose members are usually juveniles? Nothing will be said.
How about the communities and parents taking responsibility for their youth? To show the kids that there is something other than violence to resolve problems. To provide dreams other than professional sports as a way out of the cycle of poverty. To provide leadership and council.
The epidemic is children killing children. Every life is precious and regardless of age, race, religion, ethnicity or the size of the hometown. Every murder needs to be reported throughout the nation to push our citizens into action so we can start eradicating this most horrible disease.