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Do white children have to die for lawmakers to give a shit?

The trauma being faced by the surviving children of the Newtown school massacre is a daily reality for their mostly poor black and brown counterparts in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

That’s because gun violence is most prevalent in America’s impoverished inner-cities, where researchers say the PTSD rate could be as high as 40 percent, similar to war zones like Afghanistan. That means just under half of the people living in urban poor communities are suffering from “intrusive, upsetting memories; nightmares; chronic anxiety and fear; memory loss; diminished interest in life; emotional numbing and angry outbursts.”

Though African American children represent just 15 percent of the nation’s child population, they made up 45 percent of child gun deaths in 2008 and 2009, according to an analysis by the Children’s Defense Fund. In Chicago, nearly 700 children were shot in 2011. Between March 2011 and March 2012, 107 Chicago children and youths under the age of 20 were killed by gun violence. Yet, these children’s short lives, personalities and dreams are rarely given nationwide coverage like the victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Instead, they’re subtly referenced in local news headlines as nameless statistics.

That’s not to say that the children killed in Newton, Connecticut shouldn’t receive coverage, they absolutely should. But so should the black children whose communities bear the brunt of lax gun laws all around the country.

Since 2001, over 5,000 people have been killed in Chicago’s gun violence, far outpacing the 2,000 of soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the war began. Yet it took the massacre of 20 suburban, middle class, overwhelmingly white children for citizens and (some) politicians to collectively demand gun control, sending the message that the black lives are valued less than white ones.

The irony is that Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws on the books. But guns continue to flood the city, with those used in crime scenes coming mostly from the white suburbs of Illinois and Indiana. In fact, half of the guns traced to crime scenes nationwide come from just 10 states with lax gun laws: Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alaska, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Nevada, and Georgia. For every city that restricts firearms, there appears to be a Southern, historically racist state whose guns will fill the void, guns that exist in high numbers so that the white Republican male leadership of the NRA can keep their assault rifles.

As Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund, says, policies pushed by the “gun lobby”  impede “the ability of cities to develop local solutions to gun violence in their communities.”

Another striking finding from the Children’s Defense Fund analysis is that, “The top cause of death for black teens ages 15 to 19 was gun homicide, while for white teens it was motor vehicle accidents followed by gun homicides” (Be sure to check out these fantastic graphics put together by Colorlines). The difference is that the number of white teens killed in car accidents has declined by half in the last two decades thanks to a nationwide campaign to curb drinking and driving, a crime committed most often by white teens. These steps were taken despite the impact regulations and stricter enforcement might have on alcohol profits because middle class (mostly white) mothers said “enough is enough”. It’s hard not to notice the sensitive approach to this largely white problem, as white teens who rack up excessive DUI’s are punished with community service, license suspensions and AA classes, while young black men rot away in jail cells disenfranchised for life for harmless crimes like marijuana possession.

As lax gun laws increasingly affect the white suburbs, Kell Golf at The Root notes how gun control could move in a similar direction:

After Columbine, some newly inspired gun-control activists, many of them upper-middle-class mothers from predominantly white communities, expressed regret to mothers of color for not being involved in the fight for gun control earlier, when gun violence claimed the lives of kids who didn’t grow up in leafy suburbs and whose deaths were not likely to garner extensive coverage on the nightly news. The activism ignited by Columbine resulted in more stringent gun control laws and more diligent enforcement of existing laws, particularly on the state level.

Our supposedly “post-racial” society is telling poor children of color that they’re basically fucked until their reality leaks into the lives of middle class white kids. Only then will lawmakers apparently give a shit.

Update: I want to add that that this racial disparity extends to other issues as well. Take the economic crisis that hit in 2008, brining with it massive unemployment and foreclosure. For communities of color, particularly black communities, foreclosure and joblessness were crises long before 2008, it just wasn’t worthy of coverage. Many of the problems affecting our nation seem to hit communities of color the hardest. I bet if the Americans payed more attention to these neighborhoods, they could (a) learn a thing or two about tomorrow’s white tragedy, and (b) join one another in solidarity to ensure that all children get a chance at a safe an prosperous future.

Furthermore, it’s just as important to remember that the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Gaza, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo and more countries than I can name in a single blog post, are maimed and killed due to US policies that have stolen their childhoods. Whether they’re slaughtered in US drone strikes or drug war fueled carnage, these children are no less important than the little one’s massacred in Chicago and Newton.

Another Update: Think Progress has a list of 10 typically pro-gun lawmakers who have expressed a willingness to support gun control legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This is wonderful news, but again, where were these lawmakers over the summer when dozens of people were routinely getting shot in Chicago each and every weekend?

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20 Comments
  1. white americans are not much different than black or other color americans in that they believe the same crap .they work for the same bosses,destroying the same planet ,they join the same army ,that kills every non american as terrorist,etc etc.yes there are differences and within america they seem different in the eye of the lawmakers for example,but from where i stand ,black and white americans are those who kill the foreign babies,the fathers,m,the mothers ,the families of every non american who happened to reside in a place of interest to the bosses of the white and black americans….i remember the us marine (black guy) and his achievers,we are achievers he kept saying on his way to Iraq ,where he killed a few kids amongst others……Sorry to spoil it for you but your differences are far fewer than your similarities to the white trashy american semi educated religious perverts.As long as you see yourselves detached from the rest of humanity ,you will be facing the obvious problems between your own ranks.this is how all regimes of unequality end up usually…killing each other…good luck.

    December 17, 2012
  2. Very well written article, Ms. Khalek. And to answer you question, sadly, I would say yes.

    December 18, 2012
  3. It is an interesting and much needed highlight. Those of us that care about all children must make sure the conversation and policy prescriptions remain broad so that not only are suburban children are safe but inner city children as well. I think the President has signaled that it will be a broad discussion…we must all make it so.

    December 18, 2012
    • Mac Mc Millian #

      I wholeheartedly agree with what you have stated here, and it’s all true in the sense of your composed report. Yet, I do have one concern about the attention that’s needed in the ‘AFRICAN AMERICAN AND HISPANIC’ neighborhoods. Their politicans does not keep up the fight for bringing more protections and gun clean up in thier respresented communities. The politicans for ‘BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE’ will bring attention to a problem, then, in a few days or week, you will hear nothing else about the problems. When our ‘AFICAN AMERICAN’ politicians fight with the fervor of the white politicians, then, there is nothing going to be done about our community unsafe situations…………Mac

      December 19, 2012
      • I don’t think you are as aware of what happens in those communities but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        December 19, 2012
  4. Me #

    Great article. I am a very conservative guy and am using this article to make the local guilty white liberals look like the idiots they are. To be honest I don’t give a damn about the gun death rate in Chicago. Fix your own craphole. But i do like exposing libs for hypocrites. Thanks. LOL

    December 22, 2012
    • Julian Bademosi #

      Oh Me# oh my, you little, little dear: what shortcoming could you possibly be COMPENSATING for, pray tell?! Reread your words, and feel what they say about yourself. I shall be praying for you.

      December 24, 2012
  5. jeh #

    poor brown scum can keep killing eachother. i don’t give two shits about white kids dying either. no one has a right to safety anywhere.

    January 2, 2013
  6. Johnny #

    Wow… This is pretty dumb. So it doesn’t click with you people that the state with the most strict gun laws has the most gun crimes? While states with lax gun laws- that allow LAW ABIDING citizens to bear arms, have much much much less gun crimes… You are taking the guns away from the right people and letting the scumbags have free reign. It’s idiotic. It is my constitutional right to bear arms and PROTECT myself and my family. Morons.

    February 5, 2013
  7. Johnny #

    Oh and also, you say it’s a racial thing… Maybe it’s bad parenting. Most of these “children” are 16 and older. They are fucking gangbangers. Criminals who, if they grew up, would just be older criminals. Try putting some of the blame on the dirtbag parents who let their kids become that way. You say that if the kids were white it would be different? Well white kids don’t gangbang and shoot each other- is what it is. Sorry to say it, but it is the truth.

    February 5, 2013
  8. Jaimie #

    The most damaging blow to black children is abortion. In NYC, over 60% of black babies conceived are aborted.

    February 5, 2013
    • andy #

      That rate should be much higher…..

      February 17, 2013
  9. jeff #

    Its not a race thing its an agenda thing inner cities already have gun control if they cover these inner city shootings it only prices that strict gun control doesn’t work since 85% if shootings are committed with illegal firearms the government and their mainstream media just want guns out of America and they will manipulate the news in anyway needed to achieve their agenda after they kill the 2nd amendment the 1st amendment will be the next target

    February 9, 2013
  10. Haha #

    Aw. Poor me. My ancestors used to be slaves to white people. So let me continue to feel sorry for myself generations later. Also, let me forget that white people really are better. And while I’m throwing myself a huge pity party, let me blame all of my problems on the white people. You should still be picking my cotton!!!!! And just a little reminder… its black people who are killing black people. Just another obvious sign of the race’s ignorance.

    February 9, 2013
  11. MOOKIE SPOOKIE #

    Who gives a shit ?? Why is it someone elses fault these lazy fuckers want to live off slingin’ dope and robbing people. I hope they keep killing each other. Hell of alot cheaper than prison….which amounts to more taxpayer money spent on the shitheads.

    February 25, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. About Guns, Murder, Race, Politics, and Money in the US « GFBrandenburg's Blog
  2. From Newtown to Pakistan: Violence against children is inexcusable no matter where it happens | Dispatches from the Underclass
  3. Dear Media: Quit ignoring black and brown victims of gun violence in Oakland, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago | Dispatches from the Underclass
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  5. Lessons from Boston: Racism’s Blindness to Violence and Peace as a Form of Privilege — Everyday Feminism

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