Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Black Funeral Open Casket White Funeral Closed Casket

The juxtaposition of the newspaper pictures for the recent deaths of President Gerald Ford and the Godfather of Soul James Brown made us realize that we cannot remember an instance of seeing an open casket for a white person at their funeral. The Washington Post even ran a big picture of environmental justice activist Damu Smith in his casket at his funeral. There were shots from above James Brown at the Apollo Theater. There were no pictures of Elvis Presley or John Lennon in their caskets. Are we off base here?

We believe it is a racial/cultural/economic difference that has developed due to circumstances in the black and white communities. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the most important positions held by blacks were teachers, preachers and funeral home directors. Of course there were many different occupations for whites that carried status and economic security. So the art of making the dead person look as true to life as possible was and is evidently more important in the black community than in the white community.

Moreover, the black funeral experience is probably a more emotional event than the white experience. Somebody at a black funeral is going to scream and holler. The little gossipers will also privately share negative comments if the person did not look like him or herself. There was and is competition among funeral homes for customers. They even adverstise to use their service because, "mistakes can be made." Graveyards are still pretty segregated. And we couldn't find any pictures of whites in open caskets. Regardless, we believe a green funeral is best.

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