Monday, November 9, 2009

What Do the Cleveland Murders Say About Our Society?

Cleveland murders are a product of our own values

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University 

Anthony Sowell is a name that most of us would like to forget. Sowell is the 50-year-old man in Cleveland found to have 11 corpses in his home after being arrested on a rape charge. His neighbors noticed the smell, but some blamed it on the sausage factory next door.

Sowell's case jars the mind, and even the sight of him makes me want to change the channel. But not only is Sowell repulsive, the circumstances under which these women were killed are equally alarming.

All of the women were African-American. All of them were poor, marginalized and ignored by society. Some of their families called police to report them missing and the police refused to thoroughly investigate. Even Sowell was intelligent enough to know that he was taking the lives of women who would not be missed, telling one of the victims that no one would care if she disappeared. In Sowell's warped mind, many of these women had already disappeared. The truth is that he was absolutely correct.

The Anthony Sowell case is one that requires us to stop and reassess our values. Why are some people considered to be less worthy of police protection than others? I recall hearing a police officer explain to me that he felt that the job of the police was to simply protect the rich from the poor. I was under the false impression that their job was to protect the good from the bad. Apparently, Sowell's victims were not wealthy enough, blonde or blue-eyed enough to be defined as inherently good. Their disappearances were deemed unworthy of the attention of Nancy Grace or anyone else for that matter.


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