A Tale of Two Shootings on Social Media

Someone got shot in the face around the corner from my apartment around 5:15 pm on Wednesday. I walked outside a few minutes later and encountered thirty cops who had shut down the street to collect evidence, like the empty shell casings nearby.

Twitter serves as the best source for breaking news citizen journalism, but only two people had Tweeted about the shooting. Neither provided much info. @PremierPolitics got the details wrong (according to brief news reports, only one person got shot – not three) and @DignaUrena posted a few photos of police on the scene.   

Five days later, these two tweets remain the only human-generated posts about the shooting, which occurred during evening rush hour on a crowded block (there were a few tweets from bots that post police scanner activity). On Friday, NYPD returned to shut down the street - this time to film the show Bull. Life goes on. Events, even really shocking ones, are wiped away and papered over.

Contrast the social media indifference to the public response to a shooting two days earlier near the corner of Greenpoint Ave. and McGuiness Blvd. in Greenpoint. Well before police and the media determined that the shooter was an ex-cop (a detail that definitely does make for a juicy story), Brooklyn Twitter lit up with photos and information. Here's a sample:

While trying to research the Greenpoint shooting immediately afterward, a friend who lives nearby encountered several other killings that received very little attention aside from a two-paragraph blurb on the News12 Brooklyn. What makes some shootings grab our attention while others fade away – disregarded or, unfortunately, accepted as a fact of life in poor urban neighborhoods of color? 

The amount of attention paid to a specific gun violence episode in New York City seems directly correlated to the amount of gentrification in the area surrounding the shooting. Greenpoint is white, hipster and thoroughly gentrified. Rampant redevelopment and displacement have hit Bushwick hard, but the eastern part still maintains much of its past identity as a neighborhood populated by low-income people of color. Gunshots out here still seem to be shrugged off as a "same old Bushwick" phenomenon, but gun violence is not a natural occurrence and we shouldn't accept it anywhere.