The Value of Life, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote a blog post considering our evaluation of American life in contrast with global life. Today I want to focus specifically on the disparity of value of life within America.

First, let me make some observations. Consider the recent kidnapping case out of Cleveland. Three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were released from captivity after being held against their will for upwards of ten years. Amanda Berry, however, has received the bulk of the media coverage. Amanda Berry received twice the media coverage in the ten years since her disappearance as DeJesus, and has continued to receive more coverage since her salvation.

As an isolated case, it is difficult to make an inference that this is based on race. However, a 2010 study revealed that though roughly half of people who go missing are not white, 80% of media coverage regarding missing peoples is devoted to those who are white. Charlton McIlwain, professor at NYU, states “White women occupy a privileged role as violent crime victims in news media reporting…Our national ideal of who is vulnerable – and who holds victim status – are those who are white and female.” The perception of victimization is created by the media, as they report to match their constituencies–that is, white, middle class folk. (For more information about race and media coverage in regards to the Berry/Knight/DeJesus case, read this BBC article).

As another example, consider the recent Mother’s Day Shooting in New Orleans. To be honest, I was only made aware of the shooting by a lone post on Facebook and would otherwise remain ignorant. 20 people were shot in New Orleans 7th ward during a parade. Though there were thankfully no fatalities, the shooters remained at large for over 5 days making it the largest mass shooting in American History without gunmen accounted for immediately following their crime. So why is this not a national tragedy like Sandy Hook or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Columbine? Could it be because this was gang-related? Or because it happened in the inner-city? Could it possibly be because this case does not come with the attached realism, the sentiment that ‘this could happen to me?’ (For more on the Mother’s Day Shooting, see here).

Certainly inner-city and gang related violence does not register as a tragedy, or news for that matter. How many stories have you heard regarding the 506 murders in Chicago in 2012? Perhaps the sad reality is that the violence between gangs is too routine to cover, but perhaps  because people have no personal attachment to the pain it registers no response.

An analysis of the media show that their constituencies respond more volitionally to a certain type of violence. That is, a violence that is against those who are “vulnerable,” white, middle class, and often female persons. Other peoples are not typically view as victims but either as perpetrators or routine causalities of lower-class, gang-related, and otherwise routine violence.

So while a tendency exists to value American lives over foreign lives, an equal tendency exists to value middle-to-upper-class, white lives over lower-class, non-white peoples.

To state the obvious, God values all individuals equally in His incredibly diverse Kingdom. The perversion of the value of life is an epidemic that not only hurts society, but negatively influences the Church. It is in this sense that the Church needs to be an agent of reconciliation showing equal value and worth to those who have been treated worthlessly.


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