***Damon’s latest Op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on how the news coverage and condolence given to a dead police dog compares to the lack of attention usually given to human (and mostly Black) homicide victims.***
This burgeoning relationship has provided a bit of nuance to my feelings about the avalanche of attention Rocco, the recently fallen police dog, has received. Mickey is so warm, so loving and so lovable that it’s not too hard to imagine how losing a dog could cause grief. And, considering the tragic manner of Rocco’s death, it’s easy to empathize with those devastated by it.
But this hasn’t made the last couple of weeks of news coverage given to Rocco feel any less surreal.
While no one would expect each resident of the city to mourn each and every time a fellow Pittsburgher fell to violence, the attention given to and sympathy expressed for Rocco feels bizarre when juxtapositioned with the consideration usually given to homicide victims. Even the recognition given to homicide victims who also happen to be nationally recognized heroes — as Hosea Davis was when saving Allison Meadows’ life last year — pales in comparison to the coverage and public condolence Rocco has received.
There were 91 homicides in Allegheny County in 2013. And, little more than a month into 2014, we’ve already seen 13 (as I write). More than 100 living and breathing human beings who are no longer here. People who loved and were loved. People with dreams, families, fears, aspirations, plans, baby pictures, memories, mortgages, jobs, ex-girlfriends, Facebook accounts, pet peeves, regrets, YMCA memberships, bus passes, anxieties, favorite movies, least favorite foods, savings accounts and student loan debts.
People who loved shopping the day after Christmas just like you do. Who liked Primanti’s (but thought it’s a little overrated) just like you do. Who remembered exactly what they wore on Kennywood day in eighth grade just like you do. Who waited until the last possible day to file taxes every year just like you do. Who spent too much time on ESPN.com just like you do. Who took their niece and twin nephews to church every other Sunday just like you do. Who got lost every time they drove to the North Side just like you do. Who was struggling with losing a good friend to cancer just like you are. Who won a couple free tickets from their job and went to two Pirates’ games last year just like you did. Who stood in line at the post office Downtown on Monday, May 22, at 3:45 p.m. just like you did.
People who were … people.
And yes, some of these people had criminal records. Extensive criminal records. Some may have been doing something they had no business doing, with people they have no business being with. Some may have been murderers. Some may have been murdered while attempting to murder someone else.
This doesn’t make them any less human. Troubled? Likely. Severely flawed? Perhaps. But still a living, breathing human being whose death should inspire more collective empathy than a dog’s.
Also, one doesn’t need a Ph.D. in “racecardiology” or even a pair of contacts to see a correlation between the number of homicide victims who happen to be black (67 percent) and the public’s collective indifference to their deaths. I won’t go as far as to say that Rocco’s life seemed to be valued more than their lives were, but I wouldn’t begrudge someone who believed that to be true.
(Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)