Chicago Has A Problem: Don’t Use Sandy Hook To Voice It

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Photo: Sunset Parkerpix Creative Commons

The world will never be the same after December 14th, 2012. On that fateful morning, a 20-year-old lunatic walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Before killing himself, he did the unthinkable. He killed 20 small children and 6 adults. Ever since the incident, people have been expressing a wave of opinions. Some cry for stricter gun control laws while others just well….cry. Outside of these common and expected reactions another cry emerges. That of unfair injustice and in my humble opinion, downright selfish execution of it.

As I browse through my Facebook minifeed, I notice a pattern:

“It’s nice and all that everyone is upset about the Sandy Hook shooting, but what about Chicago??? People die everyday on the streets!”

“Small town has a mass shooting, media goes crazy. Chicago has over 40 shootings in one weekend. Silence.”

“I can’t believe that some people on here are saying they’re happy about what happened at that school because black kids have been killed for, what seems like forever, without much media attention.When are we going to wake up young people, those [were] children!”

The fact that some people were actually glad that innocent children lost their lives is sad, unbelievable and made me question the state of humanity. As a Chicago native, I understand the frustrations of community members. Many of us innocent, law-abiding citizens essentially navigate through a war zone where the possibility of getting killed by a stray bullet haunts us daily. When people ask where I live, I tell them just west of Hyde Park. They immediately think the neighborhood is one comparable to the very well-to-do home of the University of Chicago. They are sadly mistaken. After you pass all of the swanky cafes and eateries, the scenery starts to change in a matter of minutes. As I commute from home to anywhere, Washington Park is anything but pleasant. The bike lanes are replaced with roads that are unpaved. Nice park benches are riddled with graffiti and litter on the buildings and ground, and the sound of gunshots, police sirens and ambulance alerts ripple through the air. Young black men and women are shot almost daily during some seasons. Add the fact that a 14-year-old boy and a 17-year-old (two of many of the community’s causalities) got shot and killed just a few months ago in the building adjacent to mine, it’s literally a walking death sentence. I understand why people are pissed. I get why you feel like the government, the cops, the community, ANYBODY should be paying more attention to what’s happening on our streets everyday. I live it so I’m right there with you.

What I do not understand is why you choose a moment of tragedy, a moment where innocent people lost their lives to air your frustrations. It reminds me of when Hurricane Sandy occurred. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was criticized for using the tragic event as a means of political gain. While President Obama virtually suspended his campaign to tend to the disaster’s victims, Romney saw it as an opportunity to attack the Obama administration and express why he would be the better man to do the job. The poor taste award definitely went to him. This is what I feel each time I see those “Why not focus on Chicago?!” statuses.

One major argument is that a significant amount of Chicago teens die by living a deadly lifestyle. They choose to join gangs. They choose to sell drugs. They choose to destroy their community. Sandy Hook victims essentially had no choice. They were going about their daily lives; with most of the victims barely able to do successfully complete long division. The problem isn’t necessarily in media coverage. Fairly regularly we see reports of shootings in the city. So go beyond that and ask yourself what is it that you want? Do you want the President to make a tear-filled speech about Chicago violence? Do you want him to cry over our slain youth? Make it happen. Do whatever it takes to be heard but don’t try to downplay a tragic event for the sake of calling attention to what’s happening in our communities.

As a community lets join mentoring programs. As parents lets be more active in the day to day decisions that our children make. Let’s do something!The interesting thing about the media is that they often cover what they feel is important and what impacts the most people. So we as citizens have to make this issue important and not only when something tragic happens. The main way to be heard is to scream loud. We can’t expect those that are not affected by our day to day struggles to just magically take interest in it. Flood twitter with #endchicagoviolence. Call your local media affiliates and tell them what they need to be covering. Hold our legislators accountable. So the next time you’re about to write a “What about Chicago?!” status ask yourself this: “What am I doing to make the community a better place?” It starts with us.

10 thoughts on “Chicago Has A Problem: Don’t Use Sandy Hook To Voice It”

  1. It’s just like you typed. There is no mystery as to why most non-blacks do not pay attention to the kids getting murdered in Chicago. Their children aren’t the primary victims of that crime. The last I checked, less than 15 percent of all violent crime was interracial. The real question is, when will black people make some noise about these crimes and stop sitting around and waiting for someone of another race to come along and fix the problem? I know what people will say, we already tried to protect our communities in the days of the Black Panthers and as a result there was a crackdown on them. We still have to do something, though.

  2. Preach my sister!

    You can’t compare the two incidents. Unfortunately, we have anti-violence attention whores who want to make everything about Chicago so they can be on TV. (You know who they are.)

    But we live in a world where people spend more time on Facebook and Twitter talking to STRANGERS instead of learning the names of their neighbors.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Zack. What I am afraid of is that by comparing the two, it will be viewed as decreasing the value of an equally significant incident therefore harming the movement for change in Chicago.

  3. I have a different view… my theory(and someone can show me if i am wrong in this), but don’t most mass “crazy” shootings like this happen in communities that are “safe” (almost “perfect”). People have fled “the hood” so they don’t have to “deal” with the crime & chaos in the city. But this incident shows that no place is safe, and those with the resources to make ALL communities better, and not be content that since their community is safe, they don’t need to worry about any others.

    In the hood, the innocent victims that get hurt are usually “collateral damage” (they are near an intended victim), and don’t number in the dozens in just one shooting. Those who live in those areas take reasonable precaution, and usually don’t directly encounter the problem.

    I tell people, white liberals live in the same place white conservatives do — not in my neighborhood (of Chatham). Maybe if they did libe here– they’d be more willing to help makes changes to help EVERYONE.

    I would hope no one is “happy” that it happened to those children. But as we see in Chicago, it seems like the only time we get any significant action/investment is if it happens to the “safe” places.

  4. In Toronto, when a black person is injured or killed by gunfire, there IS front page reporting. But I agree it does take activists to articulate beyond the grief and anger to take action …ie. develop support services, healthy after-school activities/sports for teens and children, etc.

    But as a Canadian where there are stricter gun control laws, I guess I’ve been following the reaction in the news media with incredulity about the gun culture in the U.S. which is way more pervasive than here in Canada. I’m more shocked by ordinary cyclists (the type of folks I tend to hang out) in the U.S…..who own a gun. And even after this tragedy of simply innocent young children, the gun owners still insist it’s safe to own /use a gun.

    Just amazing.

    1. Jean when you compare say Toronto to Chicago the statistics are shocking…similar population count, similar makeup..yet the violence is disproportionately higher in Chicago. I’d be curious to see if segregation plays a role in the containment as well as the continuation of the cycle.

      1. I think natural community segregation can lead unfortunate impressions about a particular neighbourhood. For 14 yrs. I owned and lived in a condo that had high number of non-whites, Asian, East Indian and black. It never freaked me out..even though there was the odd shooting here and there. One just exercises common sense. Also….as a cyclist I actually felt freer and safer on bike.

        Frankly, gun ownership simply has to become socially unacceptable …like smoking: you’re seen increasingly on the outside in many Canadian social circles, to own a gun. By combining cultural attitude changes plus laws that discourage gun ownership and track gun owners centrally for the police.

  5. Good way to put it Jean. Despite impressions, things have a way of spilling over. Even the cleanest of lawns get leaves from their neighbors after awhile. Perhaps these recent instances will get more people to collectively view guns as socially unacceptable, or at the very least the AK-47s and AR-15s (all of the weapons that folks don’t need to protect themselves) will become obsolete in the hands of civilians.

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