The mainstream media shows its usual racial bias around Covid policing

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore
Eliza Egret

You will have probably seen the recent news headlines about two women, Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, who were surrounded by Derbyshire police when going for a walk just ten minutes’ drive from their homes. The pair were told that they were breaching coronavirus lockdown rules, and were each fined £200:

After media outcry, an appearance by the two women on This Morning, plus criticism of the police’s actions from MPs, the force has apologised and withdrawn the fines issued to the women. This is welcome news from a police force which used drones to try to catch out dog walkers during the first lockdown, and whose officers seem to have let their new Covid powers go to their heads.

But at the same time, we need to call out the mainstream media’s racist bias when covering this story.

Mainstream media racism

Both Allen and Moore are young, white and are what the media deems as attractive. This quickly helped to propel their story to front page news. After their ordeal, the pair were then snapped – socially distanced, of course – by professional photographer Tom Maddick. Both posed with cups of coffee to drive the point home that Derbyshire police had said that one of them was breaking rules by drinking a hot drink. Their images then appeared in nearly every newspaper and news site.

Would we have seen this kind of coverage, or outpourings of sympathy for the two, if they had been young Black men? The answer is a most definite no.

During the first lockdown, police were seven times more likely to issues fines to BAME people than white people. Where is the public (and Phillip Schofield’s) outrage? Not once do I recall the mainstream media covering a front page story about a Black person being unjustly targeted and fined.

The Canary spoke to John from Bristol Copwatch, a police-monitoring organisation. He said:

We only need to look at past history and the policing of our communities to understand that it was inevitable that as people of colour we would be targeted by Covid-19 emergency powers. As Liberty reported in 2020, we are paying the price for arbitrary policing, and are 54% more likely to be fined than our white counterparts. Whether it be Stop and Search or Covid fines, we will always face discriminatory and racist policing practices.

We need to challenge racism in society

We live in a racist society, and the influential mainstream media is instrumental in maintaining this. Newspapers too often show racial bias in their reporting, portraying white people in a much more sympathetic tone than they would Black people. The experience of the white person has always been the default story to cover, and non-white narratives are too often dismissed.

It’s up to all of us to call the mainstream media out on this, and to address the white supremacy which rears its head in every part of our society.

In her anti-racism workbook Me And White Supremacy, author Layla F. Saad tells the reader that all white people have been born into a system of white supremacy, granting us “unearned privileges, protection and power”. She argues that it is:

a system that has been designed to keep you asleep and unaware of what having that privilege, protection and power has meant for people who do not look like you.

Saad invites us all to address white supremacy:

what you can do is wake up to what is really going on. I invite you to challenge your complicity in this system and work to dismantle it in yourself and the world.

Of course, it is essential to monitor all police behaviour, particularly at a time when officers might feel that they have more right to throw their weight around. But it is also vital that we continually remind ourselves of how racism affects media coverage. The experience of two young white women has been amplified massively, yet their experience was one that Black people go through on a daily basis. This can only happen in a society that centres white people’s experiences as more valid than Black people’s. It’s up to all of us – journalists and readers alike – to challenge this.

Featured image via This Morning / Screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. Just a couple of points:
      Yes 7 officers is heavyhanded but why did they need to drive? Because a lot of people don’t own cars so don’t have that choice do we?
      Also, please go on actual distance driven not estimated time to drive 5 miles.

      1. Totally agree, to me they came across as entitled,up their own arse tossers and I had no sympathy with them whatsoever! Admittedly the police reaction, if correctly reported, was over the top, however, I do wonder if the fines were as a result of their attitude/refusal to co-operate?

    2. As a start maybe all media should use either “white” and “black” or “White” and “Black” rather than “white” and “Black”? Isn’t the latter a form of discrimination suggesting that “black” people are in some way different to “white” people? We’re all people and should be treated in the same way.

    3. Re: “a system that has been designed to keep you asleep and unaware…”

      seems to me to be true on so many levels and the cognitive dissonance involved to remain ‘asleep’ seems to be pervasive in the UK (or UKania, if you prefer). I went out for my permissable shop yesterday and saw my first pair of Covid Compliance Officers walking around like a couple of lost gestapo officers. Don’t worry about lost freedoms – you never really had them in the first place.

      Wipe the cognitive dissonance from your eyes, it’s time to wake up and become aware.

    4. They would have had to break social distance rules to get in the car, (unless they each had their own). It was right for them to be fined, and if they had been black men they would have had no sympathy.
      But please, stop spelling white with a small w and black with a big B. It makes you look ridiculous and undermines your point.

    5. Given the fact that the two women’s fines have been quashed it seems that;
      a) good sense has prevailed
      or
      b) it was always a ‘staged’ event for mass consumption via the M$M. It was intriguing that there were so many officers in that area in the first place. Were the women stooges or dupes who just happened to be there? The puritanical outrage directed at them by some other commentators for contravening this or that procedure/restriction is just another ‘holier than thou’ knee(ling) jerk reaction that the current environment encourages.
      However my main point relates to the covey of plods in the car park, and in relation to this I would like to quote from an alleged police officers anonymous letter to another independent media outlet.
      ” I have dealt with violent offenders and all manner of challenging and complex incidents on my own, managed crime scenes and serious road traffic collisions with a couple of other colleagues, and put my life and health on the line to protect the public. Now, and seemingly from nowhere, it is amazing how hundreds of officers are suddenly available to attend peaceful protests, vanloads can turn up to close gyms, shops and churches, and extra patrols be implemented to ensure Covid compliance. I actually find it insulting to the thousands of officers who turn up to work every day to do a difficult job and for genuine policing purposes.” (UK Column) Personally I’m not sure what the motive for the letter really was – a sign of the times – because despite the high visibility of all possible conspiracy theories across the internet and beyond the simple fact is most of what is happening is just piling stresses upon stresses so that there is always underlying fear or confusion or both.
      PS any news on the 50,000 Italian restuarants that threatened to re-open yesterday. C’mon Canary you claim to be a news outlet. WTF is happening?

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