The cycle continues of lives being taken suddenly and violently for seemingly no reason. In August, we shared our sentiments regarding the 346 Chicagoans who’d been killed in the first 9 months of this year. That number, which excludes the many shooting victim survivors, now surpasses 400. On Friday morning as I reached to turn the television off from having watched extended morning news coverage, a report came through about a school shooting in Connecticut. As a former educator, my thoughts went to what had always been my worst fear as a teacher – something for which we as educators unfortunately had to prepare – and thus my prayers immediately went to the students and educators at the school not yet knowing the full extent of what was transpiring at the school at that very moment. I put the remote control down and listened while working for the next few hours as the number of victims jumped to unimaginable numbers.
Admittedly, the thought crossed my mind, “for what do we do all of this?” Though no longer in the classroom, my work remains in education and ensuring academic success for students that they are prepared to lead great lives. But why, if at a moment’s notice a life we as a community have worked so hard to ensure will go on to do great things is taken from us? As tears rolled, the answer was revealed – we do it for the survivors. And we do it to honor the victims. And we do it in the face of the perpetrator – that we persevere and survive despite their attempts at the contrary.
So let our kindness, good deeds and warmth surround those who unconditionally loved the victims of violent acts that plague our world that they too, in due time, survive their incomprehensible loss.
We do this in memory of the young people whose lives were refused longevity in Newtown, Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland, Sanford, Jacksonville, Afghanistan, Sudan and countless other locales – that their peers who mourn their lives will be equipped to lead our nation and world into a new era where incidents of violence are only a matter of history.
6 Killed, 36 Injured This Weekend. Killings Tie 2012 Single-Day Record. Chicago’s Murders for 2012 Likely to Exceed 2011.
Our society was only concerned that the aggressions thus generated did not burst outward. Therefore, our larger society had encouraged the hostility it created within slum dwellers to turn inward – to manifest itself in aggression toward one another or in self-destruction and apathy. The larger society was willing to let the frustrations born of racism’s violence become internalized and consume its victims. America’s horror was only expressed when the aggression turned outward, when the ghetto and its controls could no longer contain its destructiveness. In many a week as many Negro youngsters were killed in gang fights as were killed in the [race] riots. Yet there was no citywide expression of horror.
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1966
Dr. King expressed these sentiments in 1966 during his temporary residence in Chicago. King was invited to Chicago to help shed light on segregation in northern cities, enlighten the country on the inhumanity and hopelessness birthed from such injustices, assist in the fight for quality integrated education, address the city’s race riots and assist in making Chicago an “open city” for housing. Forty-six years later, his observations still ring true. Violence in the southern and western neighborhoods of Chicago continues to rise from previously set unsettling levels. Aside from the cries from within these neighborhoods for help, the groans of grieving parents and the moans of aching peers, I’ve seen no concern for the loss of life. 346 lives lost this year alone. However, 12 people were killed in Aurora last month and our country came to a standstill. And it should have. But it should standstill for the deaths occurring in Chicago. What message do we send to those in violence-ridden communities when we direct little to no attention on the epidemic they face daily but focus on others’ lives lost? How do we prove that their lives are meaningful? Or is the inaction a direct correlation of the lack of value some place on their lives? I’m not the first to notice. CBS’ Scott Pelley shared with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “I got a letter from a viewer the other day who asked us why we were spending so much time at “The Evening News” covering Afghanistan when more people were dying in Chicago. Why is the murder rate up 30 percent?” Not only is more attention given to the lives lost in other communities in this country, but also throughout the world.
My hope is that by the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s observations a change for the better will have arrived – that all lives are equally valued by all.