The White House announced Thursday that First Lady Michelle Obama will be traveling to Chicago to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old majorette shot in the back and killed just two weeks after performing with her high school band at President Obama’s second inauguration.
The visit by Mrs. Obama comes after many local residents implored the president to come home to Chicago to help quell the horrific gun violence that is raging less than a mile north of the current Obama family home and not far from the family’s previous home in the Kenwood neighborhood of the Windy City.
A petition was posted on the White House’s “We the People” website calling on the First Family to attend the funeral. Many of the petitioners asked why the cry for gun control only becomes impassioned when white kids are shot.
“We lost a classroom full of children in Connecticut which sparked national outrage that needs to be translated into action, but in Chicago, we sometimes lose a dozen or more young people every weekend,” said Luis Gutierrez, who represents Chicago in Congress.
It is not only the broader population which suffers from selective outrage when it comes to gun violence. Remember how you felt when black 17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by Latino vigilante George Zimmerman near Orlando Florida a year ago. Then, their passion fueled by the feeling that Trayvon’s slaying was race-based, tens of thousands marched in Sanford Florida and in communities across the country.
When 15-year old Hadiya was killed in Chicago, in a black on black gun crime, barely 150 protestors joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson to march from Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep High School, where Hadiya was a student, to the park where she was shot dead a few blocks away.
Unlike Trayvon’s death, which generated widespread rage and calls for justice, Hadiya’s death generated quiet despair and embarrassment that yet another black youngster had been cut down by a black neighbor. “Too many bullets and too many guns are killing the next generation and we have got to make it stop,” said Rep. Gutierrez.
Yes, we do have to make it stop. But the brutal reality is that none of the national legislation so far proposed to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook school and Aurora Colorado movie massacres would have saved either Trayvon Martin or Hadiya Pendleton. Zimmerman was a legal gun owner. Chicago already has the toughest gun laws in the country. Yet Hadiya was the 42nd homicide victim of gun violence this year in Chicago, where killings in 2012 climbed to well over 500.
Chicago and similarly murder-plagued cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia and Detroit don’t need more gun control. They need criminal control. And New York knows how to do it. Jaws dropped when NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly disclosed recently that in 2012, 96 percent of all shooting victims and 97 percent of all shooting suspects in the city were black or Latino. The other cities mentioned have similar harsh realities. Black kids are killing black kids. And brown kids are killing brown kids.
That is why police precincts in cities in which gun violence raises above a certain level must adopt New York’s “Stop-and-frisk policy.” I know how irksome it is for minority youngsters to be rousted by cops. Many report that they are stopped regularly in their own neighborhoods. Having lived a large chunk of my life on mean streets in high-crime neighborhoods, I understand their frustration with having cops in their faces. But saving their lives is more important than saving their feelings.
What happened in Newtown, Oak Creek, Columbine, Aurora and Tucson is different than what is happening on a daily basis on the streets of Camden, Trenton, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Newark, among other cities. The horrendous massacres by madmen wielding assault weapons require a government response that is clashing with the 2nd Amendment. The remedies being proposed, particularly the crying need for universal criminal background checks deserve serious consideration.
But even if adopted, those measures will only marginally affect the urban murder rate. They will not save black kids from other black kids or Latino kids from other Latino kids. That ongoing slaughter on our streets can only be remedied when the police in high gun violence precincts are enabled to stop and frisk anyone they deem to be behaving suspiciously. I know it stinks, but that’s life, and life is better than the alternative.
Remember Hadiya Pendleton.