by G. Brown
As investigators continue to try and make sense of the Las Vegas massacre that claimed the lives of 59 people and injured more than five hundred others, mainstream media has changed the way it refers to the shooting.
On day 1, many news casts called it the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history. But soon the phrasing changed to the deadliest mass shooting in “modern” history. Why the change and why it matters.
Time magazine examined this question noting, “That phrasing has been inescapable this week, but it also raises a question: in this context, what does modern mean and why does that descriptor matter? That word’s inclusion is key because mass deaths caused by guns have long been a part of American history.”
Changing the phraseology drastically changes the narrative about our country and its history. The inclusion of simple word like ‘modern’, excludes historical accuracy of massacres that claimed the lives of Blacks,Native Americans and other minorities in racist attacks. The Colfax Massacre could be excluded from the idea of “modern history” since it occurred before the turn of the century. It is known as one the country’s single bloodiest racial massacres. On Easter Sunday in 1873, an estimated 150 Black men were gunned down and hanged by White Southern Democrats in Colfax Louisiana. The total numbers of those killed varies because so many Blacks were killed and the bodies thrown into the river or were thrown into graves with more than one body .
The phrase “modern history” would also ask us to forget what happened near Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. In Greenwood Oklahoma, Blacks had built such a successful business district that it was called Black Wall Street. Black historians say that Greenwood home to several Black millionaires and White people routinely sought them out to borrow money. Around Memorial Day in 1921, a White mob launched an attack that decimated more than 35-blocks in the area. The official death toll from state officials was 39 people, but the American Red Cross says 300 people died–most historians agree with the Red Cross’ death toll.
Modern history would also mean not comparing the lives taken and those injured when a White mob went on a rampage in Los Angeles during the Chinese Massacre of 1871. Modern would also mean forgetting the 350 African Americans attacked and forced from their homes during the Rosewood Massacre or Bloody Monday, or the Thibodaux Massacre of 300 Black sugar-cane workers.
Time Magazine pointed out that the MSM may be trying to simplify things because terms like “mass murders” and “mass shootings” didn’t exist as a way to describe killing sprees prior to the 1980’s. Another problem, as mass shootings/murders grow in frequency, the media may also be trying to breakdown America’s growing violence into easily digestible segments by separating portions of history as modern.
And still another concern could be throwing out the term “modern” history to intentionally overlook the thousands of Blacks, Native Americans, Chinese and other minorities constantly targeted in racial violence. Breaking it down into “modern” can also be confused with trying to sweep some of our ugly history under the rug. Race riots, mob violence, workers vs union violence are all part of the history that has shaped America as it is today. America’s past is peppered with events that are bloody, evil, cruel and reprehensible. We can try to sanitize it or dismiss portions of it behind phrasing like “modern history”. The risk in so doing is that we are not only changing the narrative, but changing the truth of history as well.