Privilege In Life, Privilege In Death

By: Tony Waters

To provide some broader context about Marc Thompson’s murder…Julie and I talked on the phone last night about two different cases that have been in the newspapers of Butte County, California, recently, where we live.  Two years ago, a young man was tragically lost during the annual Labor Day river float–a fun-filled day of drinking and floating by privileged students and their friends from out-of-town, who celebrate the beginning of the school year in Chico.  The story made local headlines for days. Attention from the Sheriff’s Department, and local press was abundant.  Several days later, the body of the young man was found, a victim of drowning. Julie and I discussed the contrast with how local powers responded to Marc’s murder last night on the phone.

Anyway, the quick story behind Marc’s death was that he left a local casino where he enjoyed playing poker.  His burning car, and his body inside it, was found just a few hours later in a remote area.  Instead of the massive attention from the press and Sheriff’s Department, the story was quickly swept under the rug, except from notice by alternative newspapers like a local paper called The Synthesis, which is where UC Berkeley grad Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff writes and edits.

I hope that Julie and Emiliano pursue this story.  As Julie notes, Marc was an African-American man from a poor area of Butte County (i.e. Oroville). But, he was also well-known in the community for both his activism, and cheerful curious nature (I knew him mainly for his cheerful curious nature, even though he was not in any of my classes!).  Because he was in Lee Mun Wah’s movie, he was also a local celebrity!

I have no idea why anyone would want to kill Marc. I don’t know if the motivation was robbery, racial, personal, or anything else, and the police are not telling us yet.  I do know that every time I Google for more information about his death, the websites at the local newspapers and sheriff’s office come up blank, though.  I conclude that the police just do not seem to care enough about Marc’s death, the extremely odd circumstances, the lack of “closure” for Marc’s family and friends, or that there are very strange murderers running around Butte County.  Given such circumstances, I cannot fathom why the murder of such a well-liked young man has so rapidly disappeared from the “running conversation,” to borrow a term from the Blumer article Julie cites.

4 thoughts on “Privilege In Life, Privilege In Death

  1. Tony Waters

    I blogged too fast. I used this example in my class this morning about Durkheim. The students reminded me that the drowning was actually during Summer 2013, not on Labor Day. But they agreed that the contrast between the attention paid to the tragic death of that student who was from San Luis Obispo, California, and Marc was indeed striking. Julie knows much more about the situation, as she was close to Marc–I’m looking forward to see what she writes.

  2. You were correct. The drowning was labor day, 2012. Here’s a link to the story.

    http://www.chicoer.com/breakingnews/ci_21465843/authorities-searching-student-missing-since-labor-day-float

  3. But it looks like I got the year wrong. 2012, not 2013. I knew there had to be a mistake there somewhere…

  4. Mistakes are part of the process. I am looking forward to writing more about Marc’s murder and the response from local media and law enforcement. Whose murder matters?

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