A Calculus of Race and Death?

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the D.C. Black Church Initiative, unloaded both barrels at Kenneth Wainstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in a May 19 letter addressed to Wainstein, copies of which were sent to me, other journalists and media outlets, and public officials, including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey.

The thrust of the Evans missive, which he elected to characterize as "moral outrage," is that Mr. Wainstein's office observes "a double standard when it comes to race." Evans, who is associate pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church at 14th and Gallatin streets NW, wrote Wainstein of his dismay that, in the face of an "alarming rate of Black-on-Black crime (especially males)" in the District, "you have demonstrated that you devalue the deaths of those individuals by the scant amount of resources that you have devoted to solving those cases."

To illustrate his point, Evans directed Wainstein's attention to what he called "the disparity between how your office treats a 'nameless' American-American male killed in the stillness of a dark alley in the District of Columbia and the resources that your office devoted during the recent death of David E. Rosenbaum, the New York Times reporter who was killed in early January."

While expressing outrage at Rosenbaum's death and commending him as a "good citizen" and "first-rate journalist," Evans wrote that Rosenbaum "still should not have received preferential treatment in the investigation of his death."

Then Evans posited this:

"From our vantage point there were three mitigating factors why you did this: 1) he was a white male, 2) he was a prominent journalist and 3) he was Jewish."

Evans acknowledged that he had leveled a "horrendous charge" but then offered as one of his supporting "facts" The Post's coverage of Rosenbaum's death. Evans suggested that The Post gives short shrift to African American men who are murdered but that it featured Rosenbaum's death in dozens of articles. (How The Post's news-gathering indicts the U.S. attorney's office is not made clear.) The U.S. attorney's response to Rev. Evans can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions .

Now to the point of today's piece.

Six columns about Rosenbaum have appeared on The Post's op-ed pages, all written by yours truly. Perhaps the Rev. Evans has also concluded that I regard David Rosenbaum as more important than a "nameless African American male." Otherwise why send me a copy of his letter to Wainstein?

If so, he deserves a response.

To the charge of having devoted several pieces to Rosenbaum's killing, I plead guilty. To suggest, however, that I was drawn to his story because of his race or occupation is as absurd as Evans's loathsome declaration that Rosenbaum has draw the attention of the media because he was Jewish.

Yes, his connection to journalism caught my attention. But that does not explain the pieces I have written.

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