Usually, I reserve the R.I.P. series for famous and successful achievers who have passed on. It hasn’t changed. Though many have never heard of her, she had a promising future, only to have it snatched away by a bullet.
Hadiya Pendleton was a regular girl. She was a gifted student who performed in a band at President Obama’s inauguration. She was just hanging around with some friends when a shooting occured. Pendleton was shot in the back and died. She was only 15.
I am saddened as I read about her death. I would be heartless not to. I am also reminded of the tragic murder of Derrion Albert in the fall of 2009. Like many youth, his life was taken in the poor inner streets of the big city. Like Pendleton before him, he was killed in the streets of Chicago.
What was so memorable about Albert’s death was the footage taken of that horrific brawl. We see first hand raging youth from two different neighborhoods take out their frustrations on each other. Albert was reported as the peacemaker trying to calm things down, but was unfortunately struck on the head by one of the angry males and was kicked afterwards outside Fenger High School. Albert was only 16 when he was killed.
Even though the killers of Albert are serving time in prison, the violence continues in the streets of Chicago and every other community. 2012 alone saw high profile cases where crazed men opened fire killing unarmed people in movie theaters, temples and even elementary schools. The latest mass murder was enough to spark the gun control debate once again, and yet too many people are out of touch with reality and empathy.
Many of us still morn the deaths of the people in the events mentioned. Even those of us unfamiliar to the victims share the grief of others. But I see a troubling reaction to a segment of this crisis.
2012 also marked one of Chicago’s bloodiest years. Most of the deaths due to homicide are under the age of 25. Most of those deaths are black and brown living in poor neighborhoods in the Windy City’s southside. As of this moment, Chicago leads the nation in the homicides of young people. Here are some startling indicating findings, courtesy of Alden K. Loury of the Chicago Reporter, behind this crisis:
-More than 73 percent of the city’s 1,118 homicide victims under the age of 25 from 2008 through 2012
-Almost 70 percent of Chicago’s population loss between 2000 and 2010. Those 21 communities collectively lost 140,000 residents during that time. The city as a whole lost 200,000 residents
-More than 53 percent of the locations of Chicago public school closings announced since 2001
-Nearly 43 percent of Chicago’s 109,000 foreclosure filings from January 2007 through June 2012
-More than 71 percent of the city’s 138 public elementary schools that were low-performing in math [“Low-performing” is defined as schools where fewer than 10 percent of students’ standardized test scores exceeded state standards during the 2011-2012 school year]
-Nearly 68 percent of the 221 Chicago public elementary schools that were low-performing in reading
-Nearly 59 percent of the 46 public high schools whose average 11th grade ACT composite scores were below 16
-More than 56 percent of the city’s more than 72,296 teen births from 1999 through 2009
Furthermore, these communities also have heightened levels of poverty, unemployment and percentages of adults without high school diplomas.
The Girls Like Me Blog asks an important question to us all, How many dead black (and brown) children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response? Even though thousands of black and brown youth are killed from gun violence every year in every corner of this nation, it takes the lives of 20 children – all mostly white – to get the President to have a press conference on the incident and help invoke the conversation on gun violence??
This is not to say we shouldn’t mourn for the people in Newtown, Connecticut, but why isn’t black and brown communities given that sympathy then their youth is lost in the same manner?
For those of you who don’t know where I’m going with this, let me explain. In this nation African Americans and Latinos are never seen as victims of a problem. We are seen as the problem. Conservative commentator and author Ann Coulter made that point clear when she blamed this country’s gun violence on minorities. Yet, we’ve heard those accusations before numerous times and some people are tired of arguing with the mentally deficient while cleaning up the messes caused by corporate avarice.
The attitudes this society have in regards to the deaths of minority youth is shameful. One could say that no one who calls himself an American would not feel for those youth, but sadly, there are people like that, and some of them have the power to show just how much they don’t give a damn. They consider those people as Americans let alone worthy of human dignity, and that is a huge part of the problem. Too much apathy in regards to race and poverty leads to impending chaos.
Hadiya Pendleton’s life was cut way too short by a lonely, crazed individual with no hope or love in a society that’s careless about its youth and future. In the new year Chicago’s homicides seems to be gaining some momentum as more young lives are taken. So far, very few people outside the communities seem to care. If this is the kind of reaction afforded to youth of color struggling to survive in the so-called land of opportunity, no one – absolutely no one has any business to complain.
Rest in Peace, Hadiya and all the other victims of a negligent, careless nation. Maybe someday soon, things will get better for the youth of color. Your deaths will never be in vain.
For those of you who want to help, there are a couple of petitions you can sign to get something started: