Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Like disposable people"

Last weekend I got the wrong paper. We usually get the Sunday New York Times, but our local metro paper came instead. One syndicated article struck me hard. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times decided last year to report on every homicide that occurred in LA county.

I wanted readers to see all the killings -- roughly 1,000 violent deaths each year, mostly of young Latinos and, most disproportionately, of young black men. The Web offered what the paper did not: unlimited space.

So the Homicide Report, as it was called, began with the simplest of journalistic missions: exposing a painful, largely unseen problem. The first list of homicide victims, published slightly more than a year ago, contained the names of 17 people. Eight were Latino. Six were black. Two were of Cambodian descent -- killed in a double homicide. None was white. Most were in their 20s.
And so it went. The list is frighteningly long, and the number of the really young is startling. I'm ashamed to say that most of what I know about the world that many of these murders come from is gleaned and extrapolated from the HBO show The Wire, but that's enough to have made me cringe in horror and recognition when I saw the list and read one person's comment "Almost like they're disposable people."

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About Me

I'm a biochemist at a small college.