Last night, 19 people were shot in Chicago; including a span of 30 minutes where 13 people were victims of gun violence. Here’s a description of one of the shootings:
Police say a drive-by shooting on Chicago’s South Side late Thursday wounded seven men and one woman ranging in age from 14 to 20 years. Two of the victims were taken to Comer Children’s Hospital. Most are in stable condition. Police say the 19-year-old woman wounded was shot in the arm while walking to work.
Twelve hours later, halfway across the country, a lone gunman opened fire in front of the Empire State Building. He shot 10 people and killed one. Details are sketchy but it appears the crime is the product of a disgruntled worker. He was also killed.
An interesting thing happened on Twitter as soon as the news of the New York shooting started to hit timelines. While New Yorkers were expressing shock and sadness, others were doing the whole “this happens in Chicago every day” bit. This doesn’t help anyone and is counterproductive. Comparing tragedies never goes anywhere. Loss of life is loss of life. It’s always tragic no matter how many or what the circumstances are.
However, you’d have to be blind not to realize the self-destruction in America’s Third World has been largely ignored by the national media. There’s a simple answer for this: America’s capacity for compassion is trumped by its capacity for fear.
I remember being so frustrated in undergrad when the student body wouldn’t mention the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans then gather around the flagpole for the people that died during the 9/11 attacks. I absolutely know how Chicagoans feel.
But there’s a clear difference between Katrina/Chicago and the tragedies in New York or Aurora. While only a small sector of the country – most notably lower-income people of color – would fall victim to Katrina or the Chicago shootings, the random attacks in New York or Aurora could happen to anyone. We all go to the movies, fly airplanes or go to work. The thought of a gunman or terrorist attacking us while we’re going through our daily routines is scary as hell. But being caught in a situation of poverty, uninformed about a natural disaster or stuck in a neighborhood where bullets fly on the regular? Most of us, especially those with jobs in the media, can’t imagine being in those situations. There’s no fear, so there’s no need to pay attention to it.
So where does that leave the people in Chicago? All signs show them as being pretty hopeless right now. The shootings there may as well be happening a hemisphere away. Even though these are mostly kids being shot and killed there, the general public can’t relate. So again, we’re left with no answers about what to do to help the kids in Third World America. And they’ll be pushed even further to the back pages every time a group of people get shot doing something we do every day.
In the end, lives are lost and that’s all that matters. Whether in the Southside of Chicago or the Empire State Building, the victims should be treated with equal importance. Maybe then we’ll be able to work together to find an answer.