The First 48, Reality TV & Cancerous Entertainment

The following is a response to Reality TV show The First 48 thrives off America’s racist justice system by Hannah Harris Green.

I can’t come up with a brilliant sentence to start this off. I can only say that reality TV is the kind of cheap entertainment networks and viewers can’t get enough of. Despite the obvious harmful negative stereotype rehashing, more and more are being released yearly. One of the most popular is The First 48 which has been on air for years.

The First 48 is a reality cop drama. Each episode revolves around murders. Detectors are assigned to search for the killers. Suspects are produced. Most of them are found, interrogated, charged and eventually led to prison to get tried. All of this is done within the time span of 48 hours after the murder. However, if you watch the show, some suspects are not found within that time frame.

And if you watch the show, you will notice that almost all suspects and victims are black. After watching a few episodes myself, I caught on and realized that not even Cops, another long-running reality cop show, got shit on this. Cops also stereotype minorities, but The First 48 took it a step further that would delight black crime enthusiasts.

An image from one of The First 48’s episodes.

Hanna Harris Green writes:

This portrayal is not representative of American crime statistics. Although homicide arrests are disproportionately high among African Americans, about the same total number of white people are arrested in homicide cases as black people. The First 48’s overemphasis on black crime is symptomatic of a larger disrespect for African American communities, which many Americans deem inherently suspicious.

I couldn’t stand that such a show is still on. I think it needs to be cancelled as well. But even I was taken aback a little when I read an article on The Guardian that describes the show as more destructive to black people than I thought. It wasn’t just negative stereotyping. It has also ended black lives.

Green continues:

The First 48 wouldn’t be as cinematic it is if it didn’t routinely disregard the rights and safety of its subjects. The most shocking instance of disregard was the death of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in 2010. Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley shot Aiyana in the head after throwing a “flash-bang” grenade, a diversionary and disorientating tool, through her family’s window. Experts on crime in Detroit, including police officers and criminal defense attorneys, suspect Weekley used the evidently dangerous “flash-bang” for cinematic effect, saying that they had never heard of police using the device in this way.

Of course, we all know and remember the tragic death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones back in 2010. Yet, the show is still airing with no signs of letting up. I guess her murder was meaningless to network executives who only crave ratings over lives, isn’t that right, loyal viewers?

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Not all suspects are guilty. Of course there’s a disclaimer that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty, but when it comes to black folks, it’s the oppose. We are guilty until proven innocent. And seeing a mugshot of a black male, guilty or innocent of whatever crime, would jolt the connection between black men and criminality involuntarily.

The show has also been accused of encouraging police to speed up investigations in order to fit the 48-hour narrative, thus hurriedly condemning suspects who would have otherwise received more scrutiny. Last month, Taiwan Smart sued the city of Miami for false arrest, false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights and constitutional violations. Smart claims that he called the police after running from the scene where his two friends were murdered. When he and the police agreed to a meeting place, they arrested him, much to his surprise. In court, Smart claimed that his arrest and subsequent 19 months in jail stemmed from the police’s desire to “solve” the double murder “in an expeditious fashion for the television show First 48”. He accused the police of withholding documents about the case.

Even release from jail isn’t necessarily enough to erase the stigma that comes from appearing on the First 48. Tyson Mimms of Louisville, Kentucky sued A&E in 2011 for invasion of privacy and defamation. For over a year, the episode aired repeatedly with an onscreen message saying that Mimms was “awaiting trial”, even though his charges were dismissed due of lack of evidence before the episode first aired.

Mimms also claimed that a field producer tried persistently to get him to sign a release to appear on the show, and aired his interrogation even though he refused to sign. The episode in question, “Eye for an Eye – Dead End”, shows Mimms adamantly professing his lack of knowledge about the murder investigation, and subsequently being arrested. Immediately afterward, the investigating officer says that he is happy to “close the door” on the case.

Mimms’ lawyer said that because of this appearance, Mimms’ community has come to regard him as a murderer. Investigators who appear on the First 48 consistently imply that they have found their murderer at the end of each episode, even though every suspect is legally innocent until proven guilty. An appearance on the First 48 may not mean a prison sentence, but it can still make for a lifetime of social stigma. Mimms was shot to death last year, along with the mother of his child. The full circumstances surrounding their deaths are still unknown.

The media goes out of its way to portray police as heroic servants of the law, always out to get their men in the name of justice. They are always the good guys in any given program. Just watch any cop drama, police movie or cop-based reality show and you will see how upstanding cops are portrayed with the exception of Training Day, starring Denzel Washington as a corrupt, rouge black cop. 

Training Day poster

I’m not saying every cop is a pig. But I am saying is that sometimes art doesn’t always imitate life, and reality TV doesn’t represent real life.

But hey, people will argue that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. “It’s just entertainment.” Some people will say that even though they will watch it religiously using it as a reference during their troll outings.

Yes. Tell the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones that it’s just a TV show. Tell Taiwan Smart that it’s just entertainment. Tell the family of Tyson Smith and the mother of his child that it’s no big deal.

To the families, friends and relatives of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Johnathan Ferrell, all other victims of police and vigilante violence and those unjustly incarcerated by a racist system of control, The First 48 is NOT just a TV show. It’s part of a larger problem. It feeds off of a racist injustice system. It notoriously recycles the criminal black man stereotype, all for the sake of viewership following an already bloated trend of creating more mindless reality television, proving once again that the lives of black people, even black youth, is worthless compared to ratings.

Dominika Stanley and Charles Jones, the parents of Aiyana-Stanley Jones

33 thoughts on “The First 48, Reality TV & Cancerous Entertainment

  1. I can’t stand the first 48 nor cops. These programs are nothing programing software for the weak. I find them depressing as hell and half true. My ex would sit and watch this trash tv all day then turn to Lifetime and it never dawned on her (nor me at the time) how much of a contrast the different stations were. Black was evil and violent while white was good and wholesome and just in need of a little help.

    As with most tv it was garbage for the mind.

  2. Brothawolf:

    Thank you so much this! I was wondering when you would go into detail about the First 48. These reality TV shows need closer scrutiny. When the show My Babys Mamas was going to be on Oxygen about two years ago, someone started a petition to have the show taken off the air. People said the show would be demeaning to Black people, and they were right. Maybe that should be done with First 48. Unfortunately, these shows are so popular with the majority community, an online petition probably wouldn’t work.

    And I agree that these shows are not just entertainment. They are dangerous and are used by bigots to justify their hatred. You and Hung are right.

  3. I am glad you posted this. Honestly I am sick of reality TV shows and their ilk from the Kardashians, Basketball Wives etc. I don’t like reality TV shows and don’t watch them. Also this 48 Cops show sounds stupid to me. It seems to be that they are stereotyping minorities as more prone to crime and it is not right

    1. I thought I was the only one who saw this. I dunno why though. It seemed obvious just by watching one episode alone. But the line has to be drawn somewhere when it produces this kind of irreversible damage.

  4. How many of these blasted shows do they have on T.V. Down there (States)? I used to watch the A&E sometimes but I stopped. I turned it on one day and there was a show about a bunch of inbred hillbillies. They looked like the products of serial incest (think the Hills have eyes). At first I thought it was a comedy but it turned out to be a ‘reality’ show. That station went down hill quick. But there seems to be a proliferation of these types of shows. Anyone who thought that the claims of ‘dumbing down the populace’ were conspiracy theories….they are not, just watch one of these shows. Needless to say, I have never been a television fan with the exception of a few shows here and there.

    1. A&E’s no longer about arts or entertainment. They’re following the lemmings of other networks in the reality craze off a steep cliff into the waters of nonsense (Man, that’s deep. lol) This has been going on for a while, and it’s steamrolling.

  5. I thought it was just me, but after watching First 48 hours it would leave me very depressed. I hated Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, those shows just made want to vomit.

  6. A&E stopped being about arts and entertainment long time ago, just like you said. Just following the other idiot lemmings. That is just sad. This is very telling of our culture, and it’s appetite for stupidity and foolishness. Even OWN, Oprah’s station have fallen into this mess. But sadly stupidity and foolishness is were the money is.

  7. I’ve noticed recently how A&E has gravitated away from its previous audience and is seeking viewership from the more so called” folksy” like branch of society. They not only have Duck Dynasty, but also Rodeo girls, Crazy Hearts:Nashville, and etc. A lot of the current reality shows on various stations are now geared toward the outdoorsy redneck type i.e;, There was Swamp people, Honey Boo Boo, Moonshiners, The Hatfields and McCoy reality show, and etc. … and while this demographic should not be excluded in terms of entertainment, I can also see the gradual process of continuing to dumb down our society while at the same time giving some a doses of hate or stereotypes (The first 48) to go along with their chips.

    The way the contrast is designed on the A&E station never ceases to amaze me. There is the set up depiction of wholesome good fun, redneck water slides, hunting, prayer, camouflage, and family values shown on Duck Dynasty…. Phil Robertson’s past transgressions and recent rants are all forgiven… of course; Then there are the other programs displaying good ole boys and girls who just want to have the so called All American Fun, ride their horses off into the sunset, sing their songs, and get into minor spats after one too many.

    Somewhere before or after, or even in between this so called warm fuzziness, the first 48 comes along tracking down mostly Black and or Latinos after they’ve allegedly stabbed or gunned down someone within the community. If that doesn’t work, they have “Beyond Scared Straight “so they can go after our youths too and show fatherless mostly African American/Latino boys and girls throwing gang signs telling the cameraman how they aren’t afraid of “nothing,” and then the teens are thrust into this prison complex for entertainment purposes as opposed to true rehabilitation where they’re exposed to prisoners consisting mostly of black/latino men and women shouting, attempting to shake down their cell bars, some wearing hairstyles or fake lipstick that makes them appear androgynous before they calm down telling the defeated or still defensive teen how they ruined their own lives

    What message is this sending to our young people as television tells them this is who we are? I was a previous fan of A&E, but now I’m contemplating abandoning television all together because it is too criminal focused, desensitizes, and is filled with propaganda.. I don’t watch the other stations much either, and I never did like the House Wives or Basketball Wives, and I dislike the fact that black women are depicted as being loud, menacing, and still classless regardless of whether or not we have wealth. It saddens me that this is what our young people are viewing. We have to take ownership of our image.

  8. I recently came across this quote from James Baldwin:

    “Segregation has worked brilliantly in the South, and in fact, in the nation to this extent: It has allowed white people with scarcely any pangs of conscience whatever, to create, in every generation only the Negro they wished to see.”

    I hope I can express this thought I have been having about criminalization of black Americans properly.

    As the 1900’s produced a largely urban African American population through segregation and racial terror, it has become easier to monitor criminality in urban, majority black/Latino neighborhoods. It is simply easier for shows like The First 48 to use police departments in largely urban areas that usually have larger minority populations that will commit crimes.

    How difficult would it be to set up a show like The First 48 in the much more spread out and larger majority white areas in America. There might be one murder in a rural area with a population of 2,000 for years. Therefore actually surveying white crime is just too difficult because there are too many white people and white places to actually focus on.

    1. Still, in the end, it’s another media single story. Good white cops finding and capturing evil black killers.

      I see where you’re coming from when it comes to the program’s premise to solve murder mysteries in 48 hours and do it where the most murders would likely occur in a packed area. It is indeed easier on a few levels. Yet, it does nothing but continue to recycle the age old myth of natural black criminality.

    1. Sucks to be you actually, cunt face. Go fuck yourself with a coat hanger which is something your mother should have done when she found out she was pregnant with you. With that being said, I find you to be hilarious, I nearly spat out my beverage when I read that.

  9. Yup, black on black crime is nothing but a conspiracy by whitey. Doesn’t have anything to do with young black males having no adult male role models. For those of you slow on the up take the word is FATHERS. Here’s a thought, take responsibility for your own community. The fact that you don’t wish to join the AMERICAN community might be one of your problems too. But hey, blaming whites is the easy way out, and look how well it’s worked for you. Clearly it’s the path to the American Dream you so doggedly work for!

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