You may have no idea what the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (BMP) is, but you’ve experienced it. You buy a blue Hybrid Honda Civic or learn the definition of proximate and suddenly there is an explosion of blue Hybrids wherever you drive and people are throwing out the word proximate like confetti. That’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: you learn something new and it appears to be everywhere all at once.
As I’ve been following the events surrounding Walter Scott’s murder at the hands of Michael Slager, I wonder if people who don’t believe that institutional racism in our justice system exists are experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Hey, I just heard of this recently with that Michel Brown kid! and there was John Crawford, and Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner and…they continue to list the victims –unarmed, black men– gunned down at the hands of law enforcement. I wonder if all of their brain synapses are firing in recognition of this pattern: It certainly seems like black people are constantly being killed by the police!
(Why yes, yes it does)
I am engaging in a bit of wishful thinking with this blog post. I sincerely hope that more people become aware of institutional racism with every story that is reported and that this awareness would lead to some positive action to end this madness. Only I know better.
For every video — each more graphic than the next – (that I refuse to watch) showing a black person in their final throes of life, for every report of an unarmed black person shot or beaten while seeking help, for every black mother’s son who doesn’t make it home and is then blamed for his own murder, I am overcome with an exhausting sense of déjà vu. Haven’t we been here before? Haven’t we seen this already? How many more times will this be allowed to happen?
I’m unsure what most people think or feel when they see an unarmed black man get shot in the back eight times, or hear another police officer utter “F**ck Your Breath” as he watches yet another unarmed black man dying on the ground at his feet, but I feel heartrending loss. I know none of these victims personally, but I am saddened that a life – an inimitable life worthy of dignity and respect – is stolen in this unjust and incomprehensible manner.
If you’re experiencing BMP as you watch the news then realize that Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is also known as frequency illusion. The event or thing isn’t actually happening at any greater frequency, you are just now more aware of its occurrence because your brain senses a pattern. None of this is new—it’s been going on for centuries.
But now that you are aware of it, what are you going to do about it?