Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

America should see the Newtown carnage

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
updated 8:41 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
HIDE CAPTION
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roland Martin: The cost of gun violence is often hidden away
  • He says Americans should see the carnage firsthand so they are stirred to act
  • After murder of Emmett Till, his battered face was shown on magazine covers
  • Martin says ourtrage over the Till murder helped fuel civil rights movement

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- "One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom."

That's a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.

When taping this week's edition of my show, "Washington Watch," Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett's mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.

Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman's husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.

'We should talk about our children'
Murphy: NRA plan doesn't make sense
Love for Newtown around the world
Showing Newtown they're not alone

When his bloated and disfigured body was recovered, it was unrecognizable. He was identified based on a ring he always wore.

When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.

"There was just no way I could describe what was in that box," Mamie said. "No way. And I just wanted the world to see."

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it's in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.

Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?

What if one of the mothers or fathers of the Newtown 20 demanded that police give them a crime scene photo of their child and they chose to show it to the world? Can you imagine a modern day Mamie Till Mobley, wracked with pain but filled with resolve to show the nation so they could bear witness to what hate did to their child?

The great divide: Little common ground with pro- and anti-gun forces

I can tell you that I've talked to numerous black men and women who to this day remember August 28, 1955, the day Till was murdered. The image of his face has been seared into their brain for life as a result of seeing that photo.

Is that what Americans need today? Maybe so.

For too many of us, we hear about gun violence, we talk about it, we mourn it, but to be honest, we've never witnessed it.

Our senses have been dulled to the real world carnage. We demand that news organizations not show American troops, or even the enemy, lying dead in war zones. Even when our troops returned home in flag-draped coffins, the Bush administration forbade it from being covered by the media. The Los Angeles Times was ripped by readers for showing the bloody, lifeless body of Ambassador Christopher Stevens being dragged out of a building in Benghazi, Libya.

What does that say about America? Oh, let's talk about tragedy, but please, please, please don't show the real results.

We love blood and guts in our movies, preferring exploding heads, chests ripped open by gunfire. We adore the big explosions, bodies flying through the air, buildings tumbling down. We'll drop millions of dollars collectively on movies and video games to see the carnage, but God forbid we are forced to see it in real life.

That's America. The land of make believe. Show us the fake stuff, but let's retreat into a fetal position and scream, "No! No! No!" when forced to see the real thing.

When my producer sent me that text, I recoiled at even the mere mention of seeing with my own eyes the real life results of what a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle could do to a 6-year-old body. But maybe I should see it. Maybe Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association should have to answer to such a photo when he is interviewed.

Maybe if a modern day Mamie Till met with members of Congress and forced them to look at a photo of her baby, then we would see some political courage.

Maybe if all Americans had to bear witness to such a photo, we would stop ignoring the violence equivalent to the Newtown massacres that is happening in Chicago, New Orleans and other cities across this country.

Gun violence is a national epidemic. It affects all ages and races. Maybe it's time for America to see the results of what our gun culture has wrought. Enough with our delicate sensibilities. If we truly want to confront the problem, then we'd better have the guts to see the problem.

When we've had such tragedies in the past, there was always an initial outcry, and then we'd settle back into our routines.

When that image of Emmett Till was shown to the world, it stirred up such a burning desire for justice inside African-Americans that it was a part of the foundation of the civil rights movement. Just three months later the Montgomery bus boycott began, and many African-Americans will tell you that Till's gruesome lynching was the catalyst.

Till's death was the moment that led to a movement, and 57 years later, we still talk about his death, largely because of that photo.

Maybe the only way Newtown never leaves our conscience and fades away like Aurora or Columbine is if we have to look at the results of the tragedy to ensure that this moment leads to a transformational movement.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT