15-Year-Old Performer At Obama’s Inaugural Murdered & I Guess We’re Finally Talking About Chicago Gun Violence

gun violenceJust a week ago, Hadiya Pendleton must have felt on top of the world. She was a majorette performing for Barack Obama‘s Second Inaugural. It’s a huge honor for any teenager to go to Washington DC and perform at such a historic occasion. She would have had no clue that the horrific gun violence that has plagued her hometown of Chicago would coming for her next.

But a little more than a week later, Hadiya and a group of friends were huddled under a park canopy, trying to escape some heavy rain, when a gunman opened fired on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back and died later at a local hospital. She was 15 years old, and most likely not the target of the shooting. She was just another innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire.

For months, we’ve been discussing gun violence in response to mass shootings in towns like Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut. We’ve discussed assault weapons bans and improving the mental health system. The thing is, those measures will do little to help urban violence. And for the most part, we’re completely ignoring the fact that cities like Chicago are losing young people at an alarming rate. Where’s our outrage and concern over these murders? And will the death of a beautiful 15-year-old girl, who so recently went to DC to participate in one of our country’s great traditions, finally bring more focus to deaths in Chicago that happen with a sickening regularity.

Hadiya’s death is tragic. But it’s not like she is the only tragic story to be found in that city. What about Shirley Chambers, the mother who has lost all four of her children to gun violence? What about Christopher Lattin, Jr., another 15-year-old shot to death on the streets of Chicago earlier this month? What about Terika Moore, Allen Smiley, Dimitri Buford, Antonio Fenner, and Norman Stokes, all who died from gunshots in just the last weekend?

Will Hadiya’s death spark outrage in the way that mass shootings have? I have no idea. But I hope that something will. I hope something will make us all remember that these tragedies don’t just come every few months to towns that never expect to deal with violence. There are some cities where violence is beginning to look like a way of life. We should be equally upset by this and equally dedicated to doing everything we can to help address these problems.

This latest death is tragic, but so is every gun death that occurs across our country, in our cities or our small towns. They all deserve to be addressed and remembered.

(Photo: kilukilu/Shutterstock)

[UPDATE: In response to the comment thread of this piece, we have a follow-up article on victim-blaming teens for hanging out with 'the wrong crowd.‘ 

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    • Bee

      If it is true that she was an innocent bystander and that someone just randomly opened fire against her group, then it likely stands to reason that somebody else of her group was the intended target. This girl being so “special” and whatnot should have known not to associate with people who are involved in things that might get them shot. She should have kept better associates and friends. She should have not hanged out with that group.

      No matter how tight the gun laws get there’s always gonna be criminals out there and the priority should be to teach our kids to not be taken in by their bravado and whatnot, to not idolize criminal life in music or reality tv shows and to instil in them that they should always keep their distance at any hint of criminal behavior from someone. Yes, that actually includes smoking pot too!

      • LindsayCross

        Really? We’re victim-blaming a girl who was shot in the back? Unbelievable.

      • CMJ

        For real? So, it was her fault?

        And for the record – it’s “hung,” not “hanged.” Apparently, along with victim blaming you are also horrible at grammar.

      • http://www.makingloveinthemicrowave.com/ Aja Jackson

        You should be ashamed, and the fact that you aren’t is even more shameful. So kids who get shot in violent urban areas can’t just get randomly shot by criminals now? So the death of a child in Newtown is a tragedy but the death of a child in a poor part of Chicago, well, she should have known better than to get killed, I can’t believe there are likes on this. You have no idea 1) Who the gunman was targeting 2) Her association, or lack thereof with the target.

      • ScottA

        You should walk the streets of Chicago a couple of times. It’s even scary in daylight.

        Do you know everything about the people your friends know?

        Didn’t think so.

        Time to ring the bell for your meds.

    • Lastango

      Somehow, it’s always time to talk about “gun violence”.

      When is it going to be time to talk about “Chicago”?

      “The enemy attacking Chicago’s young people is not a nameless force but something quite specific: the disappearance of paternal responsibility. five of (Darrion) Albert’s suspected killers, as well as Albert himself, came from fatherless families.”

      http://www.city-journal.org/2010/eon1001hm.html

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Oh my God! Mitt Romney is a commenter on Mommyish!

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Oh my God! Mitt Romney is a commenter on Mommyish!

      • Lastango

        Well, I guess if you can’t say anything else you can always say something like that.

        Did you know, there’s a diversity of lenses out there! Here’s one:

        http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/chicago-murders-top-afghanistan-death-toll/

      • Ipsedixit

        wnd.com, like ibtimes.com, is a hilarious website to source…unless your intent is to not be taken seriously.

      • Lastango

        Keep focusing on sites instead of issues — it’s cheap and easy, and you may succeed in scaring people away from reading the pieces at the links. Who knows what might happen if they see something that helps them think for themselves.

      • Ipsedixit

        Or…you could link to legitimate sites, reports and journals to support your ideas. Just because someone calls you out on providing ridiculous links, doesn’t mean that they can’t think for themselves. It’s like the conspiracy nut jobs that think only *they* know the true answer and everyone who disagrees with them is a sheeple. It’s called an insane delusion.

      • Lastango

        “Just because someone calls you out on providing ridiculous links, doesn’t mean that they can’t think for themselves.”

        It does if they have nothing else to offer. They they’re just attacking, throwing around the likes of “conspiracy nut jobs” and “insane delusion”. Perhaps they learned that habit on campus, where orthodoxy deals with dissent by painting other viewpoints as simplistic, negative caricatures. It works there because it has the full weight of the administration and faculty behind it. The real world can be a shock to people used to being able to beat other people into ideological conformity.

      • K

        Well yes, there are a variety of problems that influence urban violence: poverty, hunger, child abuse, sex trafficking, drugs, poor schools, lack of afterschool programming, no access to quality healthcare, and most of us who live in urban areas are interested in addressing these problems. This includes the lack of men in impoverished inner-city communities. And while the NRA would care not to admit it, the presence of guns and easy access to them ALSO contributes to urban violence.

        But why is it that while we see the necessity in addressing poverty and hunger and child abuse and so on and so forth and having discussions to find solutions for these issues, the pro-gun machine will not even entertain even the SLIGHTEST conversation regarding gun control. They do what you are doing here–supply some sort of deflection as if to say that it’s everything else in the world BUT guns so we don’t even have to broach the subject. Which is bullshit, frankly. Are guns the root-evil of all of society’s ills? No. They do, however, make it easier to commit a crime and easier to kill people. You can’t have drive-by shootings without a gun, unless you go old school with archery. And for that reason, they are a cause, just like the lack of fathers and all the rest. And they should be discussed like all the rest. The pro-gun lobby contributes nothing. It stands over the bodies of innocent victims and says “La, la, la, we can’t hear you,” like you are doing with your ridiculous argument.

        This is an article about a 15-year-old who was shot to death. It said nothing as to fatherhood in Chicago. And your argument, that this is somehow something about the murderer’s father versus the fact he was able to open fire on a group of students, hit three of them, AND get away is ridiculous. This type of crime doesn’t happen without the gun. Period. So yeah, maybe the perpetrator came from a broken home, maybe he had anger issues, maybe he was in a gang. But the gun itself is what enabled him to commit this crime.

        And by the way, you know WHY there aren’t any men in impoverished urban communities? Most are dead or incarcerated, via gun violence.

      • Lastango

        “And by the way, you know WHY there aren’t any men in impoverished urban communities?”

        I do know why: dependency culture.

      • K.

        Nope, sorry–that’s not why they’re incarcerated or dead. They’re either shot or shot someone else.

        There you go again, trying to make this about something it’s not.

      • Lastango

        Here’s something to help get you started: in 1965, 25% of African-American children were born out of wedlock. By 1990, it was 64%. By 2010, it was 72%. Cook County (Chicago) reached 79% by 2003.

        In Chicago, from 2003 to 2011, African-Americans (33% of the population) committed about 75% of the murders. Caucasians (at 32% of the population – about the same as African-Americans) committed about 4% of the murders.

        What do you think about the correlation between single-parent households and poverty, and between poverty and crime?

      • K.

        Nah, sorry–clearly you are not reading carefully because you’re still trying to deflection tactic.

        This isn’t a story about single-parent households in Chicago. Or poverty in Chicago. This is a story about how a 15-year-old girl was shot to death in the middle of the afternoon in a park. And sure, there are plenty of other issues that are part of the story, but I can tell you this: the gun is what made this particular crime possible. The gun is what made it deadly, efficient, and allowed the shooter to get away–and I would go so far as to say that the gun was the single variable that caused the shooter to commit the crime in the first place–one person doesn’t generally try to beat up an entire group. It’s also much, much harder to kill someone without a gun than it is with one. And it’s way harder than that to kill one person and wound others AND get away if you’re armed with say, a knife. In other words, dad, no dad, poverty-stricken–whatever: the shooter committed the crime BECAUSE he had a gun.

        So unless you have something to say about that element of the crime and gun control and about what we can do to address the access, availability, and firepower of guns, then you really don’t have much to add to this discussion.

        It’s getting kind of funny to watch the NRA try and continue this deflection, holding up video games and such and saying “No! Don’t look at the elephant in the room! Look here! Shiny object! Shiny object!” Please.

        (PS–if lack of father figures is a big concern for urban communities, you know which organization has a lot of male membership? The NRA. I don’t see a whole lot of NRA guys out there trying to help out the youth.)

      • Amy

        Out of wedlock does not equate to fatherless. The fact that you either don’t understand or wilfully ignore that to “prove” your point makes you an incompetent debater.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165875627 Jennifer Ives O’Meara

      But wait!!! Doesn’t Chicago have some of the strictest gun laws in the country? No handguns, concealed weapons etc. Yeah lets keep talking about the “guns” as they seem to be the source of all the problems…and defiently not talk about the idiotic, uneducated, some times mentally unstable people who are using the guns. That will solve the problem.

      • Lawcat

        I know. Lets talk about how easy it is for those idiotic, uneducated, sometimes mentally unstable people to get their hand on guns. Kinda like Adam Lanza.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165875627 Jennifer Ives O’Meara

        Wasn’t it reported he used his mothers weapon? He lived with mom, so I imagine it was really easy once he killed her. How about we talk about WHY mom told the very few individuals that she trusted to babysit “never turnyour back on him, watch him at all times, he can not be trusted.” A person like that, regardless of the weapon is a ticking time bomb. So why wasn’t he in treatment, where are we failing in this issue?

      • K.

        Here’s the thing about mental illness:

        1. Most people who suffer from mental illnesses–including sociopaths, psychopaths, schitzophrenics (sp, sorry), people with PTSD–may exhibit violent tendencies, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to go out on rampages. And statistically, most do NOT (more will harm themselves before they harm others).

        2. There are A LOT of people out there with mental illnesses and their mental illness makes them paranoid about receiving treatment or medication. So many people who need help don’t get it.

        3. Most of the spree shooters in the latest high-profile cases (Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook) have relatively mild psychiatric histories, but nothing that would get them committed or jailed (it’s only upon reflection that their histories make their acts seem more inevitable–moreso with the VTech shooter than Adam Lanza). And a lot of the time, there are also events in the shooter’s lives that could be seen to “trigger” the rampage–ie, maybe they were mentally unstable, but there were also some environmental factors (Holmes (Aurora) was leaving grad school; Lanza had difficulty with his parents’ divorce).

        The thing is, individuals with mental illness have rights and all of these men, as terrible as their crimes were, were also adults and therefore cannot be just summarily locked away on suspicion of violence. Despite our best efforts, we have no way of knowing who is a “ticking time bomb.” And we can’t be a society that just locks people away because we THINK they are a “ticking time bomb.” That is removing someone’s civil liberty and their God-given rights to life and liberty. Someone has to actually demonstrate, in some way, that they are a danger to society. Writing a few violent plays (Cho), withdrawing from graduate school (Holmes), and being the subject of mom’s choice comments (Lanza) is not–and should not–be enough to get one removed from society.

        My answer to you in terms of what we CAN do is basically that we should demand that mental health be given the same importance as physical health–that psychiatric treatment, both therapy and drugs, be covered (a friend of mine suffered from PTSD and found his insurance would cover 6 sessions…6 sessions ain’t enough–that’s seeing the therapist once every 2 months for 1 year only).

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165875627 Jennifer Ives O’Meara

        Here is the thing I know, all of the past tragedies that you have listed, have been committed by a man, with a diagnosable mental illness. If you could ask the parents of these men, or thier peers, or their dr, I am pretty sure you would find all the evidence one would need to determine that yes, they are ticking time bombs, that yes, they need more than the average amount of help, (meds & therapy) I am not talking about violating anyones civil liberities, locking them up, throwing away the keys, that is what we did over 100 years ago, and that was one of the worst parts of our mental health history, I am talking more. I don’t know how much more, but there has to be more that we can do, can offer, can treat. We (usa) turn out some of the smartest minds in the world, and the best we can come up with is, making handguns illegal to carry in Chicago? Its just not working.

      • The Real Mrs. Robinson

        So, are you advocating mandatory background checks?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165875627 Jennifer Ives O’Meara

        Background checks and new laws won’t do shit. I’m advocating getting to the source of the violence, discover the problem, and fix it.

      • Amanda

        Exactly. America’s mental health system is complete shit.

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    • Jenny

      Wake up people! Please wake wake up! You are all falling right into the trap that the government has set up for us. You are all completely foolish to think that all of these shootings just so happen to be coincidental right smack dab in the middle of all this gun banning drama. It’s all a set up to trick the public into thinking that we should all give up our guns. This is what they want—a disarmed public. Guns are our right to protect ourselves if needed. Please open your eyes! The info is out there. The proof is out there. Why don’t you start digging and researching and reading the info that they don’t want you to see and the info that they try so intently to block and erase. The people are more powerful as a whole compared to the small group of crooks and liars that run this place. But our potential power means nothing if we if we choose to close our eyes and ears to what’s really going on. Knowledge is power. Educate yourself!

      • Shea

        I honestly can’t tell if you’re trolling, or really that paranoid.

    • Jenny

      And I GUARANTEE you, just wait until after there is a final decision made on banning guns…you won’t hear of any mass shooting for quite some time. Just wait and see…

      • Annie

        Guns aren’t going to stop the government if these conspiracy theories are correct. They’ll turn off the water and power, use their helicopters, tanks, and other hugely powerful weapons.

        Besides, look at other governments that turned on their own people. They create an enemy (Jews, the educated bourgeois, non-communists) and encourage citizens to do their dirty work for them through social exclusion and even violence, whether it be by clubs, guns, or hammers.

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