Dawsey: Silence Over Murder of Promising Young Black Woman is Deafening

December 30, 2014, 3:33 PM by  Darrell Dawsey

Christina Samuel

She was a bright and ambitious young woman, with an 18-karat future glowing ahead of her.

But that future was tragically and abruptly darkened this holiday season when a gunman on the city’s eastside walked up to a parked car in which the young woman sat and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

Still unsolved six days later, the killing, which occurred not far from the city limits, remains as mysterious as it is mournful, the sort of slaying that compels people of conscience to raise hell and demand answers.

Instead, however, the death of 22-year-old Christina Samuel has been met with our collective silence.

Other than her family and friends, nobody is mourning the slaying of this recent college graduate, gunned down on the corner of Carlisle and Redmond streets mere minutes after midnight Christmas Day.

There have been no vigils, no fundraisers, no six-figure rewards, no headlines.

Unlike a white Grosse Pointe Farms teen killed in similar circumstances three days before Christmas, Samuel — a gifted young black Detroiter who’d recently earned a criminal justice degree from Indiana Tech and was returning next year for her master’s — died with few other than her loved ones asking why.

Related coverageSlaying of Detroit College Grad, 22, Goes Unnoticed by the News Media

And so now, Detroiters must not only try to make sense of both of these harrowing holiday killings. We’ve also got to ask ourselves how it is that we spend days pondering the brutal death of 16-year-old Grosse Pointe resident Paige Stalker — shot to death Dec. 22 as she reportedly smoked weed with friends in a car on the east side of Detroit — but no one has so much as mentioned Christina Samuel’s name.

A graduate of Detroit King High School and the product of a solid working-class family, Samuel lived a life as full and worthy as anyone else’s. Nothing about the elements of her life or her death makes her story any less compelling, any less heartbreaking, than Stalker’s narrative.

But Christina Samuel was black in a city where black people are gunned down with bone-chilling regularity, where some of the same people shocked by Stalker’s killing perversely and callously see the premature death of a young black woman as an inevitability.

And while I certainly agree that Stalker’s death deserves our notice, let’s keep it real: Many in metro Detroit are drawn to the story because they just can’t fathom why the city streets would take out a rosy-cheeked white girl from an affluent suburb.

A black woman being killed? Nothing new to see there, right?

Reading the reports about Stalker’s death, I saw where someone said that the fatal shooting wasn’t “supposed to” happen to Stalker. I understand that feeling.

But if such a violent death isn’t “supposed to” happen to young women like Stalker then who is it “supposed to” happen to? And does this sentiment make it that much easier for the media to dismiss — or at least miss — the deaths of young black women like Samuel?

If Samuel were a young white collegian murdered in the Detroit streets in the earliest hours of Christmas, I have absolutely no doubt her death would have earned front-page play and top-of-the-broadcast consideration. The comparisons to and contrast with Stalker likely would have been immediate and incessant.

TV producers would’ve aired their photos side-by-side. Right-wing columnists would’ve been underscoring the “recent rash of murders” and asking whether young white women are safe in the city. Some hipster would’ve put a piece online vowing not to leave Detroit in spite of the “recent rash of murders.” Not only would Samuel’s death not have been overlooked, it would have been amplified.

But again, Samuel was a brilliant young black woman in a place where black life is often discounted. She died and a city that spent its holidays inundated in details about the shooting death of a Grosse Pointe Farms teen was too preoccupied to notice.

This cannot stand. This young woman deserves our tears and outrage and demands for justice also.

Let’s not only remember that Christina Samuel’s life mattered — but that it mattered just as much as anyone else’s.

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