Saturday, February 16, 2013

Whence Cometh Compassion?

Chicago’s long struggle with gang violence has now become a front-page crisis: “A City in Crisis Seeks Answers” is the recent Chicago Tribune headline (Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 Edition). But the reality is that the city has been in crisis for decades, and it was worse 10 or 15 years ago than it is now. Much worse. Ask anyone living in a poor neighborhood, or check Wikipedia.

While I’m glad that the media is finally noticing that there is a crisis among the city’s poor, I have to admit that I’m a little cynical and suspicious about why it’s suddenly on the front page and not in the back of Section 2, where with few exceptions such news historically has resided. My cynicism makes me wonder if this is news now because of white children getting shot in a small New England town and the momentum that can be built for stricter gun control. 

It has always bothered me that, as shocking as school shootings are, they get so much more attention than the hundreds of children getting shot in the ‘hood every single year, as if kids in the ‘hood getting shot over longer periods of time are somehow less valuable. I have to wonder if this is not simply a soft racism by the very people who champion the poor and downtrodden. I have to wonder if this isn't political pragmatism: Leverage a crisis to produce desirable legislative results, and if minority kids are good props, use them. 

Who’s to say racism isn't alive and well? 

Let me put it another way: If Newtown hadn't happened, would Chicago's struggle with gang violence make the front page? My guess is it wouldn't. 

So I'm glad this is getting attention, and I hope something can change this ongoing disaster, but I fear that compassion and care for minority kids in poor neighborhoods is not what is driving this new-found media emphasis. 

Update, March 19 2013
The Tribune's John Kass has some additional insight into the phenomenon I describe above:,0,5292295,full.column


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home