7 Men Charged With Same Crime, Their News Photos Have One Disturbing Difference

Black guys get mug shots and white guys get yearbook photos…when charged with the same crime? What’s wrong with this picture?

Raw Story reports some serious racism in how the media portrays crime suspects. Specifically, the Iowa Gazette ran two stories about burglaries on March 23. One report — which identified three white guys on the University of Iowa wrestling team as the prime suspects — showed them looking all spiffy and nice in their yearbook photos. The other report — featuring four black guys as the main suspects — showed them looking all down-and-out and thuggish in their mugshot photos.

Blogger Rafi D’Angelo at SoLetsTalkAboutIt.com pointed out that in reports filed on successive days, the The Gazette in Cedar Rapids {Iowa] printed mug shot photos of black burglary suspects and yearbook photos for white burglary suspects.

On Facebook, Chelsea Pfeiffer called out the Gazette for their totally-not-racist news photos, demanding:

Why did this story get run with these criminals’ school photos, where on the same day, same situation, the article of another group of burglars featured their mug shots?

To make her point on the racist news photos, Pfeiffer even shared side-by-side screen shots with the photos from two Gazette news reports that got posted to 9 ABC’s page.

Chelsea Pfeiffer Why did this story get run with these criminals' school photos, where on the same day, same situation, the article of another group of burglars featured their mug shots?

Facebook user Chealsea Pfeiffer calls out The Gazette on their racist choice of news photos for two sets of men — one white and one black — in their crime reporting. Both sets of men are accused of burglary. Photo: Screen grab/Chelsea Pfeiffer/Facebook.

Other commenters swiftly weighed in. After a brief exchange in which one poster sneered that the black guys probably didn’t have school photos and got smacked down, another declared:

I could not agree with you more. I am a Iowa native, now living in Houston, Tx. This kind of injustice occurs every day here and obviously everywhere. I still am proud to be a Iowan, but will be waiting to see how this ends…a crime is a crime, no matter what color of your skin, so let’s punish all evenly… I really do not think the University needs this type of publicity. These persons need to lose their scholarships and be expelled.

Then someone pointed out what should be obvious, but still isn’t for some:

Those blacks” may not have had school pics, but those wrestlers definitely have mugshots.

Yeah. Where are those white guy mug shots? Speaking of which, one writer mentions how these sets of photos may affect the outcome of their cases. Because, of course — thanks to those racist news photos — the white guys look more sympathetic from the get-go.

It is completely racist how you portrayed these two sets of burglars! You used mug shots for the Black suspects and school photos for the white suspects. That has an affect on how potential JURORS will see them! I am sending this complaint to EVERYONE and I am spreading it on Facebook so that they can see the racism for themselves. Shame on you!

Carol Seide from Boing Boing also questions why mug shots were used for the black suspects and yearbook photos for the white suspects. Didn’t the police department provide mugshots for both sets of suspects? Or did someone special-order yearbook photos for the white guys to keep them from looking like the vile thugs they are?

“As Rafi points out, regardless of what photos were available of the black suspects, the white suspects definitely had mugshots taken. In trying to justify the discrepancy, The Gazette explained they must make a formal request in order to get mugshots, yet they were clearly willing to take that extra step when it came to the black suspects.”

So Let’s Talk About (STLA) adds:

So why weren’t mugshots good enough for the white guys who got arrested?  Who already looks guilty before their trial?  Which story plants the seed into a potential jury pool that this is a group of good kids versus this is a group of criminals?

Others questioned why the stories referred to the white guys as “wrestlers” and the black guys as “burglars.”

Why are they referred to as ‘wrestlers’? Are they wrestling in the story? I though they were burglars.

Both articles were written by Lee Hermiston…who apparently is in dire need of either some diversity/racial sensitivity training or a new editor.


Photo: Screen grab/Chelsea Pfeiffer/Facebook