Brandon Lincoln Woodard — father, son and friend — is dead. The darling of a successful, affluent African-American family was executed in broad daylight in midtown Manhattan during the height of the holiday season and according to family members, all his distraught mother can ask is, “When is my son coming home?”
But he’s not coming home. He’s not.
Just as Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis didn’t come home, Brandon Woodard will never make it home again.
Of course, the stories are vastly different worlds apart. The horrific crimes above were not organized hits – as is suspected of Woodard’s murder – rather they were acts of hatred committed in a society organized so that the murders of innocent black men and boys go unpunished.
The erosive racism at play here cannot be found within the construct of the crime itself. In the case of Brandon Woodard, the racism emanates from the media as clearly as George Zimmerman spewing the word “coon” on a 911 tape.
Every sketchy detail of Woodard’s past has been shared under salacious headlines. Throw in an accomplished actress with a publicized vendetta against his mother, accusations of mortgage fraud, rap sheets and cocaine use, wrap it all in the word “rapper,” and the thick pot of controversy quickly begins to bubble over into the kind of story that scorches the headlines for weeks as it continues to build up steam.
Yes, it seems that the made for Hollywood plot is fair game for tabloid fodder, but as headline after headline, story after story scavenges for dirt about the so-called “aspiring L.A. rapper” the underlying rationale of his murder seems to be a familiar refrain:
“Oh, well, that explains that. He was a thug.”
The coverage of Woodard’s death continues the trend of vilifying black victims. George Zimmerman’s violent history — and arrest record — was kept under lock and key, while Trayvon’s school suspension and alleged marijuana use became front page news. Former NYPD Officer Richard Haste chased down 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, illegally kicked his way into his grandmother’s house and murdered him in cold blood; yet the fact that Graham had a bag of weed and a record is considered news, and more importantly, by many it is considered justification.
In each of these instances, racial code words have been sprinkled throughout coverage not meant to examine the magnitude of these deaths, but to minimize them. And as different as the circumstances of each case may be, the perpetuation of the narrative of black men as thugs affiliated with drugs, violence and Hip-Hop culture — as if the three are somehow interchangeable, always finds a way to take center stage.
Brandon Woodard was a college educated man pursuing a law degree when he was gunned down at 31-years-old. He was not Tupac or Biggie. He death does not embody Hip-Hop culture; Hip-Hop culture is not defined by drug deals and murder; and drug deals and murder are not manifestations of the Black experience.
And no matter how much that lie is shoved down our throats, most of us are smarter than that.
While it may be important for authorities to discover Woodard’s past and current associations to better understand who may have wanted him dead, media has no such motivation. By framing this case first around Hip-Hop, then around drugs, many outlets are purposely putting a culture on trial and finding it guilty before the first arguments have even been heard.
And in Los Angeles, like so many cities across the country, a grieving mother waits for a son that is never coming home.