Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of my friend Marc Thompson’s murder. Marc was a good friend of mine and a former Sociology student. A few years ago, we made a documentary together called If These Halls Could Talk. The movie also starred our mutual friend Joe Rogers. Like Marc, Joe is a Soc major and in addition to everything else he does writes for The Orion, the independent student newspaper at CSU, Chico; Marc would’ve graduated from there this last December with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Instead, his parents were awarded his BA posthumously. Joe wrote about Marc in the recent issue of The Orion, which you can read here. In December, I wrote about Marc for a local independent called the Synthesis (you can read it here).
Recently, I noticed there was a new comment from a reader below the Synthesis piece. A reader named Pamela Dean-Dunlap points out in a comment that the reward being offered by the Butte County Sheriff (and a non-profit called “crime stoppers”) to help lead to the arrest and conviction of Marc’s killers is lower than in a case of animal cruelty in nearby Sacramento. She goes on to say that while she never met Marc, “the community needs to pull together to do more.” She says it makes her “sick to her stomach” that more reward money isn’t being offered for tips and information.
I don’t know a thing about investigating a murder but I do know that it’s essential to keep Marc’s name in the running conversation, i.e., keep his story in the local papers and other media. The Sheriff’s investigating are more likely to keep at it if they know the public is watching. I knew about the website that the Butte County Sheriff was creating when I wrote about Marc’s murder in the fall but I was suspicious about its intent then and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I still don’t trust their intentions (I might even call it CYA on their part, a way to prove that they are doing their job). Should I trust the local sheriff? If you read my piece, maybe you’ll see why I’m concerned. So far, the Butte County Sheriff has not been as forthcoming as some of us would like. For example, investigator’s recently “recovered” some bullets and have sent them to the Department of Justice for testing, but where the bullets came from and why no one heard about them previously is unknown.
Since writing this, I’ve been accused of being a conspiracy theorist and a cop hater, but it doesn’t matter because agitation is sometimes what a situation like this calls for; I don’t think the investigation was well-handled at the time of Marc’s murder. And, I’m absolutely certain it was handled how it was because Marc is Black and young and from Oroville, CA; the working class and more racially diverse counterpart to Chico, CA, the middle-class college town next door. In rural northern California, racism shows up interpersonally but especially institutionally; whose murder is important or not depends on the race, class, and gender of the victim. In other words, the deaths of middle and upper class White people are treated with a different care, from the investigators to the reporters.
As Joe says, “It is time to investigate the investigation. Was Marc’s case handled properly or was he another victim of racism?”
Julie Garza-Withers, former award-winning community college Sociology instructor who’s currently using Sociology to organize and research for racial justice in rural northern California. She was a facilitator in the film “If These Halls Could Talk” with Director Lee Mun Wah, and has published at Working Class Studies, and elsewhere.
Julie has a particular interest in class and classism as a form of social stratification, and the role of cussing and anti-intellectualism in stratifying society. A fan of cussing herself, she says she only “Cusses when necessary,” which is often. She considers herself a working class academic because she is a first generation college grad who grew up in rural southern California where her options post-high school included getting married or working at Del Taco and selling tacos to fast food customers until she got married.
Julie has an M.A. from California State University, Chico, where she studied how social class and gender impact work-place conflict between women. She lives in rural northern California with her husband Larry where they enjoy the forest, their dogs, and gardening.
You can follow Julie on twitter where she posts as WorkingClassTeacher, and also check out Julie’s anti-racism work at Rural SURJ of NorCal-Showing Up for Racial Justice. Currently an inactive author, awaiting a poke with a sharp stick.