by Dr. Boyce Watkins

John King of CNN News. Courtesy of Reuters.

John King of CNN News. Courtesy of Reuters.

When you use a loosely-defined term such as “dark-skinned male” to describe the suspect of one of the most notorious crimes in American history, you should fully expect that people are going to become angry with you.   So, when CNN’s John King went there, all Hades broke loose in the blink of an eye.  A series of prominent figures and organizations went on full alert, from Rev. Al Sharpton to the National Association of Black Journalists.   King was not only called out for using the term, he was also called out for using faulty information.

This kind of irresponsible use of language and imagery is nothing new in the Boston area.  Back in 1990, a man by the name of Charles Stuart shot and killed his pregnant wife, then falsely claimed that a black man did it.  This led to a massive manhunt throughout the city, where black men were being stopped, searched, abused and apprehended for no good reason.  This reign of police terror remains as a scar on Boston’s ugly racial history, and this situation certainly didn’t help….

We can’t entirely blame King for using skin color as part of the description, since it does reduce the potential pool of suspects.  But what we can blame him for is the use of poorly-researched information and not being more specific.  If the suspect had indeed been a dark-skinned male, it might have made more sense for King to wait until an image was released, instead of seeking to be the first man on television to give any kind of information to the public.   I suspect that King hardly understands the kind of danger every “dark-skinned male” in the state of Massachusetts would be dealing with as a result of his seemingly innocent little sentence.

As a case-in-point,…

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