DIA DE LOS MUERTOS EN LAS TIERRAS DE LOS MUERTOS
HOW AND WHEN WE THINK ABOUT DEATH
Roberto Dr Cintli Rodriguez
At this time of the year, many people prior to getting into a holiday mindset, are thinking about death. Different cultures celebrate it differently. Below is how I think of death, as I continue to research on the topic of law enforcement abuse and brutality in the United States.
October, like every month, has been an especially deadly month for people in this country, particularly people of color. I focus on people of color because my research tells me that the killings of POCs are not random, but rather, as a result of dehumanization and the patrolling of bodies and communities of color, especially that of red-black-brown peoples. Unfortunately, this is not a new phone number since I literally traced is to 1492. Regardless if the killings are random or targeted, the amount of law enforcement killings in this country is unparalleled anywhere else in the “developed” world. Killedbypolice.net (KPB) lists 88 people killed for the month of October.
People around the world don’t think the same way as I do at this time on the subject of death. Many people honor or remember their dead in different ways. In the United States, apparently Halloween is some kind of holiday related to the dead. On the rest of the continent, spirits are honored publicly in what is referred to as ”Dia de Las Animas,” though also known as Dia de Muertos or in the U.S. as Dia de los Muertos (DDLM). They are celebrations of death, which is really celebrations of life. Death is not feared and the spirits are honored. I could be wrong, but I believe every city and every town and village in Mexico have their own procession and celebration at their cemeteries, Etc. Some are bigger than others, but they are all unique.
In Tucson, where I normally live, the day is celebrated in a very different way. Borderlands are a very violent place. That is, that’s where a lot of migrants perish. Many if not most are poor and/or indigenous peoples that have fled either poverty or violence and have migrated from the south on their way to El Norte. Since the enactment of NAFTA in 1994, it is estimated that some 7,000 to possibly 10,000 people have died trying to cross the border, whereas prior to NAFTA, the tally was zero. Each year, DERECHOS HUMANOS conducts a pilgrimage honoring and remembering the dead that have been found in the desert that particular year. This year the number is 147 for the year ending October 1. This year's pilgrimage will be November 2nd.
Another group - The Detention Watch Network - has also been having events coinciding with Dia de Los Muertos nationwide, including vigils and other actions in 15 cities through Nov 6., bringing attention to the high number of migrant deaths under ICE detention. Since 2003, 173 migrants have died in detention, with 12 this year alone. The events also honor these dead.
While I do love the public celebrations (Self-Help Graphics in ELA is the first when I attended 44 years ago), nowadays, I’m leaning towards doing something similar to what Tucson and also the The Detention Watch Network does, in relationship to all the unjustified law enforcement killings in this country. When I said these deaths go back to 1492, that is not hyperbole. At times it has been worse, yet it is undeniable that we are in the midst of a crisis. Here, I wanted to mention a few things regarding the 88 deaths for the month of October.
Here is an outrageous case involving a pregnant native woman, Renee Davis: At the moment, her case is not listed in KPB.
There are other groups - media outlets, primarily - that tally, but I have found this to be the one that has done the most consistent job since 2013. The Guardian was doing excellent work also, however they stopped this past year. All have methodological problems dealing with issues of undercounting and miscounting, but KPB continues with their selfless and invaluable work.
For October, I tallied 5 native peoples killed. Two are identified by KBP (Davis is not listed) and these two below are not identified by KPB.
This is a 27-year-old man. Not 100% certain that he is Ho Chunk, but he is connected to the nation:
While the identity is not yet confirmed, chances are very likely that person killed here is native because the killing took place at Standing Rock.
Additionally, I count, at least 19 labeled as Latinos/Latinas, though truly, only 5 were identified as such, with 4 named. There's probably 1-2 more, and possibly more because some are mislabeled as white and in other cases are not identified at all, killed in cities where the likelihood that it was a Latino/Latina is fairly high. This one, Cabrera, is not identified, but most certainly should be added to the count bringing to 20 confirmed in this category.
Also an unidentified man was killed by police in Los Angeles. While his name was not provided by the LAPD, KPB does identify him as a Latino. This brings to 21 confirmed:
What I show then from KPB is:
- 15 are listed as Black.
- 21 Latino ( 5 named, 16 not named and possibly 1-2 more)
- 5 American Indian
- 22 white
- 63 identified
- 25 not identified, though, due to last names, one can assume that at least 16 of them are Latino/Latina, though possibly 1-2 more. That leaves 9 unidentified. Due to location, probably either Black or white, though possibly American Indian or Latino also.
Thus, KPB lists 88 deaths at the hands of law enforcement for the month of October. The average is virtually 3 per day. It has to be noted that this is not a list of unjustified killings. At the same time whether justified or unjustified, it tells us several things. 1) We live in a very violent society; 2) the numbers regardless of cause, are unparalleled by countries in Europe; 3) the numbers of people of color being killed, proportionate to their numbers in society are at a crisis level. I would even say at a genocide level; 4) while the media reports a few spectacular cases, for the most part, virtually all those killed here will remain nameless and forgotten shortly, even though most will have never known of them at all, and 5) quite a few of those killed are either mentally ill or homeless or both. They end up dead because the officers are not properly trained to deal with their situations.
Because KPP updates their information as they receive it, these numbers and the identification data will most likely be adjusted.
* This is part of a larger work on the same topic, released to coincide with DDLM. Thanks to: Killedbypolice.net