The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Dearborn, Michigan:
Money speaks louder than slander

Nov 11, 2002

The family of Frederick Finley has now received 7.5 million dollars in a settlement from the May Department Stores Co., the parent company of Lord & Taylor.

Over two years ago, Frederick Finley was murdered outside a Lord and Taylor department store in Dearborn, Michigan by several of the store's security guards. After his 11-year-old stepdaughter was accused of shoplifting a $4 bracelet from the store, the family was confronted by security guards who choked Finley to death.

Day after day, the incident made front page news. You would think there would have been outrage that a man could be killed for a $4 bracelet. Not at all – not when the victim was black, without political connections or wealth.

The media – provided with information by the authorities, condemned the family – maligning their character, their personal habits, the marital status of Finley and his common-law wife, their step-children. Some articles even blamed Finley for his own death, despite the coroner's report that he was choked to death. When nearly 5,000 people demonstrated at the shopping center, the media portrayed this demonstration as if it were a public nuisance, rather than a legitimate outcry at a disgusting murder. And although prosecutors, facing new protests, finally charged one guard in the death – but only on an involuntary charge – a local Dearborn judge refused to order a trial.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise in Dearborn, with its long-standing – and well-deserved – reputation for racism. Orville Hubbard, the Dearborn mayor who at one time declared that black people should leave Dearborn before nightfall, is today honored with a statue on the lawn of city hall.

Now, more than two years later, Lord and Taylor has offered to pay seven and a half million dollars.

This is no small settlement, agreed to by a company to avoid a long drawn-out legal battle. Seven and a half million is a defacto admission that Frederick Finley was murdered.

As they say, money speaks louder than words – in this case, money admitted to murder.