No equal justice for black and white murder victims

Equal justice isn’t automatic

It dawned on me as I headed to Ft. Worth this week the last two funerals I’ve attended were for young people who have been murdered. Both were likely killed by people they knew. Both were unspeakable tragedies.

equal justice

The murder of Ferguson activist Darren Seals made national news last fall and remains unsolved today. I attended Darren’s funeral at Greater St. Mark’s Church, an activist sanctuary with which I became familiar in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing. As I sat among friends I met protesting, I felt the collective grief as family members and friends gave moving tributes to their fallen brother, son, and comrade. An unmistakable cloud of anger hung in the air as we looked around, wondering if Darren’s murderer was among us. We knew undercover homicide detectives were in our midst, but were unsure of their intent.

Not all murder is created equal

The folks around me were worn down from despair over Darren’s senseless death, but also of the pointless deaths of so many young black women and men. Uninhibited emotion erupted from those sitting in groups with Darren’s face freshly silk screened on t-shirts, emblazoned with “Gone, but not forgotten”. Clusters of the R.I.P. shirts commemorating Darren throughout the packed church resembled sports team jerseys, signifying solidarity for Team Darren. The memory t-shirts were as rare as violence in white, wealthy neighborhoods. The shirts also underscored the anonymity of brutality, so relentlessly commonplace, in poor, urban spaces.

Detectives no doubt attended the funeral of Molly Matheson, beloved daughter of a dear college friend, too. I looked around at the mostly white, affluent mourners, many of whom I’d known for decades. Several held tissues to their noses to suppress their tears. Beautiful flower arrangements in the church altar flanked photo posters of the even more beautiful Molly, who I never got a chance to meet. The outrage over Molly’s murder was muted by the assumption, the understanding, police were doing their best to investigate her murder. There is a hope, at least, that Molly’s murderer may be held to account.

Trust in the system such as this is a privilege not shared equally.

While the grief in the modern Texas church was also palpable, relatives and friends retold precious stories of Molly’s wit and grace, able to suppress their anger. While they no doubt raged against Molly’s killer-at-large, they didn’t direct any ire against the system. The community came together as one to mourn Molly’s death and uphold her family. Moral anger didn’t even need be spoken. No one doubted Molly didn’t deserve what happened to her. I don’t have to peruse online news of Molly’s death to know no one is making racist &/or victim shaming comments about her lifestyle choices. White people don’t need t-shirts to make sure society remembers their children’s violent death. White children don’t have to die under the exact right circumstances to elicit national mourning.

The community grieved Darren’s death not only for him, but as another killing in a non-stop procession of violence in their neighborhood. The family of every slain beloved victim should be afforded the same level of moral outrage, investigative  resources and meted out justice. Molly and Darren died wanting it that way.

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