It appears, however, that young African American men from Washington, DC might be safer going to war than staying at home.
According to this week’s story from Scripps Howard News Service, there are 140,000 troops in Iraq, and there have been 286 fatalities from all causes since the war began in March (about 24 weeks ago). That gives us an annualized death rate of 443 per 100,000. Only about half of these deaths (147) were in combat, for a combat death rate of 228 per 100,000.
According to Center for Disease Control / National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, there were 21,836 young black men (age 18-30) in Washington DC in 2000, the latest year that mortality data is available. The total number of deaths in this group from all causes was 132, with 95 homicides. i.e. the death rate for this group was 604 per 100,000 and the murder rate was 435 per 100,000.
In other words, a young black male soldier from Washington DC would have been 36% more likely to die by staying at home than by serving in active duty in the Iraq war, and almost twice as likely to be murdered at home than to be killed in combat. Yes, that’s horribly sad, but it puts a few things in perspective.
Exactly what are we saying with this argument, which has been making the rounds of Hate Radio and the talking head shows as well as on blogs like this one even as the death toll continues to rise (the entry was written a while back). Yes, that’s horribly sad, but it’s unavoidable that young black men will die everywhere? Yes, that’s horribly sad, but as long as I, the arbiter of what constitutes a good death, determine that these unnamed black men died for a good cause, it’s okay?
Forget that trying to put anybody’s death in “perspective” requires a particularly sick kind of arrogant presumption. Let’s focus on something else that’s screwed up with this argument.
Just by making it, we are explicitly demonstrating how okay the deaths of young men are with us. We are saying, “They’re gonna die here, they might as well die there, so eh.”
Think about that for a minute.
Maybe if the people mouthing this brand of horseshit were at the forefront of efforts to curb crime in the inner cities, I’d be willing to listen to them rationalize away dead kids by pointing out their location at the time they became corpses. As it is, I can’t hear this line of reasoning without realizing it’s pretty rhetorically dumb to try to dismiss one political problem you’re not interested in solving by bringing up another thing you’re just as happy to ignore.