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  • Mercedes Marinaro

Inequality In Death

by Wake Intern Mercedes Marinaro



Death is not the great equalizer.



Racism in death persists even today - just last month in Oaklin, Louisiana, Black sheriff’s deputy, Darrell Semien was denied a burial plot on the basis that it was a “whites only cemetery”. We have a long standing tradition of desecrating native burial grounds, recently, in the building of the US-Mexico border wall, and by using these as a trope in horror movies throughout the history of film and television. The funeral of Emmett Till helped illuminate the horrific racist violence in Mississippi and throughout the U.S.


We also have to acknowledge that many white-owned funeral homes aren’t options for African Americans, because they don’t know how to care for a Black body in death (https://www.goodefuneralhome.com/blog-posts/3086/structuralinstitutional-disparities-in-the-funeral-industry ). Furthermore, there is a long, horrifying history of African American bodies being taken and used as medical cadavers without consent (https://www.jstor.org/stable/20853130?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents ).


How does the funeral industry reckon with this violent history? How do we change the narrative that even in death - long considered to be the great equalizer - there is still so much persistent injustice? While funerals can give great dignity to people who are ostracized by society in life, they can also contribute to the systemic racism so deeply ingrained in this country.


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