White people kill themselves, Black people kill each other, and Chinese people don't die...
From the New York Times story Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls (for the full video click here).
I promised not to talk about black folks this week, but I am having a Bill Cosby moment.
They say you can tell alot about a society by how they treat their children, old people, and criminals. I would add one more category to this list--one can tell a great deal about a society by how they treat their dead.
I love a good story about funerals or funeral homes (Yes, I am a bit twisted, I know this and admit it). There is a certain pornography of death at play in these spaces, and this is especially true of funerals in the black community. At funerals for black folk I have seen photos of the body taken, video recordings made, and professional funeral attendees (well probably semi-professional actually) who make going to funerals and crying a second job. Apparently, anthropologists have argued that this is an Africanism that continues in Black America where these professional criers are said to help with the grieving process. One can also hypothesize that documenting the death ritual made sense given how geographically dispersed black folk have been during our 2 great migrations--it makes sense but that don't make it any less creepy. And of course we hold funerals for the "n-word" and for the "negative perceptions" of black people. We love funerals it seems.
I have also seen fights at funerals and bodies pulled out of caskets when the dozen or so baby mamas show up to mourn "their" man. But, nothing tops the following story for absolute shame and embarrassment. On the anniversary of King's death can't we do better?
Apparently, The Wall Street Journal has found space in its esteemed pages to cover the rising tide of violence at black funerals. It seems folks are getting shot at, armed guards are being hired, and general mayhem is on the rise. Apparently, some knuckleheads are inspired by the funeral drive by in the movie Colors. To quote the article, "funeral homes used to be the most respected places you could walk into beside the church," says Jeff Gardner, a co-owner of A.D. Porter & Sons in Louisville, Ky., and a third-generation undertaker. "Nobody respects life and the young folks nowadays don't mind dying." Maybe the ign'ts can stop wearing their white-tee's, maybe they can't help but man-share, and they can't help but love minstrel-hop, but can folks at least respect the dead? I wonder if Blacktown.net has anything to say about this?
Ooh well, it was worth a try.
I have a habit of bookmarking tragic, odd, and ridiculous stories, thus the impetus for this blog. From my personal collection, here are some other great funeral home related entries:
1. Wade funeral home in New Haven, CT cited for having decomposing bodies in its basement. Apparently, the owner "forgot" he had the bodies and put them in the basement. Oops.
2. Colonial funeral home in Hamden, CT is now using billboards to advertise its services. More interestingly, the owner of the funeral home, in a dispute with a client's family, threw the ashes of the deceased at the plaintiffs during a court hearing. Don't let this dissuade you from using their services because the owner is cool people (I know him quite well).
3. From The Village Voice, "A Harlem funeral home has been sued for losing bodies and filching corpses from nearby hospitals. Now it must answer charges that a dead man's body was chewed up by rats." Enough said, check out the article here.
4. The body collector speaks about life and death in Detroit. Watch the video, hear his wisdom, and share his thoughts with friends and family.
Brother Cosby I think you have another crusade.