Chances are you haven’t yet heard about 17-year-old Hunter Brittain who, despite being unarmed, was shot dead by police during a traffic stop. It’s not that this isn’t a shocking and tragic story, but there has been a complete national media blackout on the incident because, unfortunately for Brittain’s family, they’re all white.
Brittain was pulled over in the middle of the night last week in Cabot, Arkansas, for reasons that remain unclear. According to 16-year-old Jordan King, who was in the vehicle with Brittain, the truck was having gear trouble and would not remain in park, so Brittain exited to place a container behind a tire in order to keep it from backing up into the squad car.
That’s when the deputy fired at Brittain, striking him in the neck. King said he never heard the officer command Brittain to halt or return inside the truck. An investigation is underway.
Despite this being one of those “unarmed police shooting deaths” that so often arouse the media, neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has done a single piece of reporting on the incident. Nothing from CNN nor MSNBC.
Just two days after Brittain’s death, 23-year-old Dimitri Lanahan was also shot dead by police near Fairbanks, Alaska, after brandishing a fake gun. He was white too, so you likely hadn’t heard about that one either.
At least seven other unarmed white people have been killed by police this year, according to a Washington Post database. (A database that users have to search through should not be confused with reporting on, writing on, and giving sustained attention to individual incidents.) Those lives apparently don’t matter as much.
Admittedly, all of the facts aren’t yet known around the circumstances of Brittain’s death. Did he charge at the officer? Did the officer hold a reasonable belief that his safety or the safety of others was at risk? Maybe we’ll find that out when the investigation is complete.
But since when have all the facts mattered? Immediately after Andrew Brown was killed earlier this year, the media were hyping up his case as proof of their complete myth that cops are targeting innocent black people. It turned out Brown had an arrest warrant for dealing cocaine and fentanyl-laced heroin. When police arrived at his home to detain him, body camera footage showed he tried evading the cops in his car, nearly plowing into one of the officers on the scene.
That doesn’t mean he or any one of these people deserved to die, but at minimum, it dramatically changes the degree to which race was a relevant factor, if a factor at all.
Hunter Brittain’s life mattered just as much as Andrew Brown’s. Say his name, even though he’s white.