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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Selene Raynor's death

The two articles I wrote on the murder of West Chester University student Selene Raynor (Oct. 16, Oct. 17) attracted a variety of reader comments. Some were sympathetic, some were misinformed, and some were alarmingly ugly. We've done our best to delete the ugly ones, and I won't dwell on them.

What I'm interested in is this: When, on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m., I filed the first of the two stories on Raynor's death, neither the police nor the university had released her address. We would later find out that she lived in Philadelphia, on North 28th Street, a few blocks from where she was shot. My first story lacked this information. This led a few commentators to either question or try to find some justification for Raynor's presence in Philly. Judging from their comments, it was inconceivable to them that a West Chester University student might actually live in Philadelphia.


SQUABBIT wrote: "The article doesn't say why she was in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city, NOT one of the better sections of Philly to be sure!"

my 2 cents wrote: "What a beautiful young lady. I am so sick to death of what I think is racism. If she were white, this would be NATIONAL news. I never even heard this WCU student was missing! A West Chester student KILLED, this is terrible. Also, who cares where she found. Philadelphia is one big college campus, she could have been meeting one of her friends at one of the colleges there. I am glad Daily Local reported the story and showed her picture. My thoughts and prayers go to her family. I'll tell you, It seems like a lot of bad things happen to kids that go to West Chester U. That college has bad luck or something."

There are plenty of West Chester students who come from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods. But suburbanites tend towards provincialism: they think of Philadelphia as a foreign land, dangerous and incomprehensible. This provincialism, of course, is caused by economic segregation. The paths of people from affluent suburbs and people from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods rarely cross. When an event like Raynor's murder occurs, some suburbanites, who instinctively want to sympathize, must first try to make Raynor more familiar: she must be one of us. She must live in a nice suburban neighborhood. She can't be from a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia, because... then we couldn't sympathize as much?

my 2 cents is correct: the murder of Annie Le will get far more national coverage than the murder of Selene Raynor. This is deeply unjust. The national media is protecting it's predominantly white audience from having to admit the humanity of people who live in poor urban neighborhoods. If you can label a neighborhood "the ghetto," you can ignore it.



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