With Murder Does Race Matter?

In the case of murder, race has always played some role in how people receive and take in information. There’s a long-standing current of opinion that seeks to use patterns of murder to paint larger pictures with social implications. Then there’s the opinion that the murders of some races hold greater importance among the media than with others.

Whatever path of opinion an individual chooses to take or not take with respect to race and murder in this country, race is at the center of the conversation over a Los Angeles Times reporter’s blog called the Homicide Report. Jill Leovy strives to report all of the homicides that occur within Los Angeles County, and unlike how the Los Angeles Times reports homicides in the print edition, the blog recites the race of every victim.

Much to the surprise of the blog’s readers, they are usually shocked at the number of deaths reported on any given week. Some notice the pattern of mainly Latino and black victims. Some want to argue that the victims are victims because of their race. Some want to use the blog’s information as proof in the argument that murders keep happening to minorities and no one wants to help.

While the blog is commendable in giving a name and sometimes face to the victims whose lives are taken from them, does making it a point to relay their race do anything for the community or does it only perpetuate a problem and a very tired argument that’s been used by activist groups waiting for the right moments to tout their agenda?

If the point of the blog is to identify and also acknowledge murder victims, which the print edition of the L.A. Times fails to do (because there just isn’t that kind of space available in the paper), why is it that the victims are labeled by something so arbitrary and ambiguous?

Most people surely want to be remembered for their accomplishments and who they were as a person – not by some group label. It is obvious that Leovy does not have the time or resources to write full-on features articles about each victim, that is quite clear and not the argument here.

But murder and violence don’t discriminate – that is what should be at the heart of the argument. Plainly put, there are a lot of murders and violence that occurs on a daily basis. Blaming the media or politicians for only highlighting the murders of non-minorities, doesn’t do anything to solve the problem or reduce crime. It just creates a situation of tension and only places a chip on the shoulders of those who like to wave that argument around.

We, as communities, need to start cleaning ourselves up – that’s the solution. Bringing up the race debate or insinuating that the issue is race (which is what the Times blog does), only creates a further standstill around the problem.