On Monday, March 27, 21 year-old Aaliyah Alder was found dead in the stairwell of Forest Houses in the Bronx. Alder was found with a gunshot wound in her head at around 10:30 pm. There are several tragedies about Alder’s case that the press continues to ignore. Alder was a beautiful aspiring model, a resilient young woman who was trying to better her life, and someone who was always the life of the party. However, countless news outlets have painted Alder as a violent woman who had an extensive record and tough past. The media’s treatment of Adler is a constant reminder that a Person of Color must be the “perfect victim” in order for the family to receive justice.
What is a perfect victim? In simplistic terms, a perfect victim is one who always did tremendously well in school, had no prior arrests, and was most importantly, a morally just citizen. If the victim does not fit into this mold of being perfect, they are painted out to be as somebody who deserved their attack. We have seen cases of this notion by watching the media portray Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and most recently Timothy Caughman. Each individual was portrayed as a thug, had records of prior arrests exposed, and were essentially made out to be deserving of their murders.
News outlets such as Pix 11 and the New York Daily News have all reported false information in regards to the case of Adler. It was articulated that her murder was a result of a dispute between her and her “baby daddy.” This is the first alternative fact included in accounts, seeing as though Adler had no children. There was an altercation between her and a male friend that resulted in her slashing him with a knife. However, that was self-defense as the altercation was escalating quickly. Afterwards, spectator and friend of the male Davaughn Johnson came back to Forest Houses with a gun, found Adler in the stairwell, and then proceeded to shoot her.
The events prior to the shooting have no bearing on whether Adler deserved to be shot military style. The answer to this question is a clear no. Along with this, another argument brought forth by news outlets is the, “Well, what was she doing in this building in the first place? She wasn’t a resident of Forest Houses.” While Alder was not a resident of said building, she was visiting close friends. Since Forest Houses is a public housing building, it fits into the stereotypical trope of the “violent Bronx projects.” While ongoing violence in housing projects is prominent, does that mean no one is allowed to leave their home or visit friends living in a building around the corner from their home?
Instead of focusing on the injustice surrounding Alder’s case, the media continues to paint this scenario as another case of a Black woman getting murdered in a housing project. It is as if Aaliyah and her murderer fulfilled some sort of Bronx prophecy.
MMC senior, Merideth Matos, was friends with Adler. Matos elaborated on the media’s treatment of her by saying, “[Aaliyah] was so genuine and so nice. The way the media portrayed her was so wrong… They want to bring up her past because while it is sad that this person died, it didn’t matter because look at her past. Not only did they portray her past in a negative way, but also where she died. In the South Bronx, in a staircase, in the projects. All three of these things the media used against her… [S]everal news stations were asking ‘Well, what was she doing in the stairwell in the first place?’ making it look like she did something bad. She’s the victim and the media forgets about that entirely. This negative coverage is unnecessary and is something that is never done to White victims in the media.”
The past and circumstances of Aaliyah Alder have nothing to do with whether she deserved her murder or not. Adler’s case deserves both dignity and justice. In reality, the idea of a perfect victim does not exist or apply to every individual. In the era of a Trump Administration, it is vital that the media’s focus should be delivering the truth instead of perpetuating the racist structures that surround it. It is what victims like Trayvon, Mike, Timothy and Aaliyah Adler deserve.