HANDS OFF YATES: Mainstream Media Must Stop Targeted and Bias News Reporting

When 18-year-old De’Lindsey Mack was found shot to death in the affluent River Oaks area, near Lamar High School where he attended school as a student, it sent shockwaves throughout the city, especially when it was reported that his death was possibly the result of gang activity.

Mack and a young girl, 15, were near Lamar High School in River Oaks a little past noon on the day he was murdered, when they were both approached by three young male suspects who drove up in what police are describing as a black 4-door vehicle that had paper plates and a plastic bag on the back passenger side window. According to Houston Police Department (HPD) Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner, the gunman who pulled the trigger and killed Mack was reportedly wearing a mask, a black hoodie, and possibly black clothing. According to Chief Finner, once the suspect opened fire on Mack and the young girl, the suspect stood over Mack and fired more shots into his body, leaving shell casings all over the ground and bullet holes left in parked cars that were nearby. The 15-year-old girl was grazed on the side by a bullet, according to police. Mack was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

While searching for the perpetrators,

Lamar High School and other nearby school campuses were placed on lockdown while police were seeking their whereabouts. A car matching the description of the vehicle used in the shooting was eventually found, but the suspects still have not been found and investigators are still searching for clues and information.

While any tragedy such as this should be disturbing enough, the way the mainstream media reported the story from the onset was equally as disturbing as the brutal shooting death itself.

“Yates High School cancels after-school activities after former student shot to death,” was the headline that Channel 13 News decided to run with on their abc13.com website. Channel 11 decided to use “Victim in fatal shooting near Lamar High School transferred from Yates High School” as their headline on their khou.com website. Going even further, Channel 11 News anchor Len Cannon mentioned in his on-air news report that Mack transferred to Lamar High School from Yates High School and stated that Mack’s ties to gang activity began at Yates. Cannon then proceeds to talk about how scared the students at Yates were and how they didn’t want to show their faces. KHOU Channel 11 then sent a reporter out to Yates on the day of the shooting and found two students who claimed to have known Mack and they talked about their alleged experience with gangs in the area.

Now while I can understand taking precautions to lock down Lamar High School and other schools in the surrounding area, it is peculiar the way Yates High School has become the poster child for the incident versus Lamar High School, where the student attended and was killed near.

According to reports, Mack was a former student at Yates High School but had not been at the school for some time. It is being reported that Mack was homeschooled for two years and then eventually transferred to Lamar High School recently. It has also been mentioned that Mack may have attended Bellaire High School as a student in HISD as well.

If Mack attended Bellaire High School, Yates High School, was homeschooled for two years and most recently attended Lamar High School, why has Yates High School been chosen as the poster child for this tragedy and why is Yates High School being used to deflect the attention away from Lamar High School, or River Oaks, where the murder took place?

The answer from Houston Independent School District (HISD) Trustee Jolanda Jones is one that she hopes the community listens to.

“I am so sick of Yates being considered the poster child in the White media,” says Jones, who represents Yates High School in her district. “That baby who was murdered was not enrolled at Yates, nor did the crime happen at or near Yates. It has been quite a while since he even went to Yates, so I’m real irritated at the White media for racially profiling Yates, like they tend to always racially profile Black men and boys.”

Jones believes that the mainstream media in Houston has had a history of excluding the affluent White community and their schools from any negative news reporting and failing to address the issues that go on in affluent areas like River Oaks and others.

“Let me be clear, gang violence is not confined to Black and Brown schools. It’s just not,” says Jones. “There are crimes that are committed in River Oaks, and the White media needs to stop trying to hide it or act like it doesn’t exist. Yates has a fantastic principal with state of the art magnet programming. During a time when we should be encouraging kids and their families to consider Yates as their primary option, we are having to once again clean up the mess that the White media has made by tying a school that had nothing to do with that crime, to that crime. And for anyone who wants to say I shouldn’t be using the race card, well, as long as you keep being racist, I will pull that card from the middle of the deck if I have to.”

Jones may have a point relative to the way traditional African American schools and issues relative to students are covered in the mainstream media in the Greater Houston area. There have been nine children killed by guns in the Greater Houston area this year, which is amongst the highest in the United States, according to analysis of data published by the non-profit organization called Gun Violence Archive.

Gang violence and other crimes, such as drug dealing, the use of illegal drugs, sexual assault and many other crimes plague many of our schools in the Greater Houston area, and predominately White schools or schools in affluent areas are not immune to those issues. In many cases, the issues are equal or worse than that of inner-city schools in the area.

As a matter of fact, Mack was not the only Lamar High School student that was impacted by gun violence. Within a week of Mack’s horrific murder, two 15-year-old boys were found shot to death with gunshot wounds to the head inside a luxury apartment in the River Oaks area in an apparent murder-suicide, according to investigators.

While seeking to address the issue of gang violence in the Greater Houston area is extremely important, the question that many in the community are asking is why Yates High School became the focal point of a shooting that took place near an entirely different school, in an entirely different neighborhood, with a student who no longer attended Yates High School?

Community leaders, parents of Yates students and alumni of the school are demanding that the mainstream media stop with the blatant disrespect and targeted attacks on the image and legacy of Yates High School and begin to place the emphasis on Lamar High School and the River Oaks community. They are also demanding that HISD send out a press release promoting Yates High School as a safe and secure place for families to send their children, as well as highlight the many positive aspects of Yates High School, such as their quality magnet programs.

The Forward Times will continue to monitor this issue and will keep its readers abreast of any updates surrounding the hopeful apprehension of the suspects who are responsible for Mack’s murder, as well as whether the narrative surrounding the inclusion of Yates High School in this horrific incident will change for the better. Stay tuned!