In the wake of enormous tragedy, it is left to each of us to analyze the coverage of stories that startle even the most hardened of media consumers. Shaquan Duley, 29, is a South Carolina resident who confessed last week to suffocating two of her toddler-aged children, 1-year-old Ja’van Duley and 2-year-old Devean Duley, then putting her car into neutral and letting it drive off-road into the nearby Edisto River, after initially claiming that she lost control of the vehicle before it entered the river. As details of the case unfold, the portrait of Duley which has emerged is villainous and one-dimensional: she is seen as little more than a young, single and poor Black mother who drowned her children as a result of an argument with her own mother.
This case follows an eerily similar precedent in South Carolina: in 1994, Susan Smith, a white middle-class mother of two boys, strapped both children into their car seats before submerging her car in John D. Long Lake in Union, South Carolina. Like Duley, Smith initially lied about the incident, claiming that her car had been stolen by a young Black man. Continue reading