I AM A WHITE WOMAN.
I wish to express my outrage at Michael Dolan’s Nov. 18 article about black funeral establishments in the District (“Lots of Life in a Dying Business.”).
Dolan’s inclusion of titillating fiction from novels may have struck your editorial staff as necessary “spice” to entice readers to an unusual subject. I saw it as gratuitous and unnecessary. Nothing like descriptions of humping cokeheads and snide asides about Jheri Kurl to reinforce negative stereotypes. Then for added measure this is paired with a little riff about dead gang members with live ammunition in their pockets. Is this how you present African-Americans to your (I presume) mostly white audience?
What is worse, the deep religious beliefs of African-Americans are discounted with some simplistic neo-Marxist analysis of the role of Christianity during slavery. What you ignore, save for some mention of duppies, seances, and malevolent ghosts, are the deep belief structures of Africans and African-Americans. My knowledge of this is limited, but my studies of African art have introduced me to a vision of great complexity. Speaking generally, Africans have a rich knowledge of a coexisting spiritual world. This world is the one from which physical life comes and which is re-entered by humans at death. The importance of death as a transition point is underscored by the great funerary arts of a multitude of African cultures.
This article could have been one that enriched cultural awareness in this diverse city. Someday someone will write articles to help us appreciate and understand one another. I hope you print them.