Hadiya Pendleton is dead. She was a 15 year old honor student from Chicago that was shot in front of her school last week. She as well as her band had recently performed at President Obama's inauguration. Never heard of her? I am not surprised. Hadiya is just one more name to add to the list of deaths in Chicago. And she is just one more name to add to the list of names of recent shooting deaths around the country.
In 2012, there were 506 homicides in Chicago alone. This is a staggering number considering most metropolitan cities are experiencing a decrease in murders and violent crimes. But is Chicago just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shooting deaths? Is Chicago setting the standard for what is to come?
I must admit that I have been wanting to write on the homicide rate in Chicago for a few months. It is an interesting scenario. Many of the homicides have been attributed to the product of gang wars, instead of an overall violence issue in the city. But the horrible numbers made me ask another question. What role does the media play in the violence? And where are the politicians?
The violence in Chicago was not an overnight phenomena. I remember hearing about large numbers of shootings, mainly with teenagers, that began early last year. There would be a story here or there and then the issue would fade away until the next shooting. Overall, it didn't seem as if the mainstream media took much time to address the violence in Chicago. I have talked to several friends about this over the past few months, and they believe that the media doesn't address it because this is an internal problem. Meaning, that this is an issue within the black community so we as a community need to fix the problem. But what happened to it takes a village? Surely, gang violence isn't a problem known only to Chicago.
But there is something else interesting about the violence in Chicago, the lack of political attention. How could the city that the President calls home escape scrutiny while he was running for re-election? If I were his opponent I would bring this issue front and center. Yet, for both sides the murder rate in Chicago was never an issue. Why? First, I believe that perhaps both sides thought that it was such an isolated problem that it was not worth addressing on a grand scale. Second, there is no easy way to handle gang related violence. In an election year people are looking for solutions points that provide and easy talking point. So maybe it would not help their campaigns to address gangs as a platform issue. Third, and possibly the the most pessimistic answer is that the community in which it involves doesn't matter. Aren't areas affected by gang violence usually comprised of low income minorities? And the association is that low income minority communities do not come out to vote. So maybe those who were running decided that they didn't need to address the needs of a community that wasn't involved in the political process.
It is hard not to compare the attention that was brought to the shooting in Connecticut without addressing the lack of attention to homicide rate in Chicago. Many people will say that there is a difference. That in Connecticut it was one shooter who entered a school and took the lives of many defenseless kids. But Hadiya Pendelton was a defensive kid who was shot for no reason. Is her life not just as important as the lives that were lost in Connecticut?
This post is far from a cry for gun control. It is a call for people control. The continued silence on the violence in Chicago is proving to be deadly. It is time that we have a serious discussion not just as a city, community, or a state but as a nation. While we try to prevent another massacre that happened in Virginia, Phoenix, Colorado, and Connecticut let us also address the other typesof massacres that are occurring in Chicago, Atlanta, and other cities.
(Photo: AP Photo/Courtesy of Damon Stewart/BET)