by Dr. Boyce Watkins
A 15-year old girl was excited to perform before President Obama at his inauguration last week in Washington DC. But just a few days later, excitement turned into tragedy when she was gunned down in close proximity to the president’s house. Hadiya Pendleton lived on the south side of Chicago, a place that has become nothing short of a war zone where bright futures are turned bloody on a second’s notice, and nobody seems to care. Somehow, the world decided that these kids deserve to die, and it appears that Hadiya’s greatest sin is that she wasn’t born with blonde hair and blue eyes like some of those precious little babies at Sandy Hook.
On the day she died, Hadiya had been let out of school early and was under a canopy in a park. A witness says that while 10 students were standing out of the rain, a gunman came into the park and opened fire. Hadiya and another teen fell to the ground about a block away from the shooting. The other teen was shot in the leg and Hadiya died from her injuries.
“It’s very painful to see your big sister get slaughtered,” said Hadiya’s 10-year old brother, Nathaniel.
This has been the deadliest Chicago January in ten years, with 42 people killed in the city thus far. Also, the city confiscated twice as many illegal guns last year as New York City itself. Guns flow freely in some parts of Chicago, where authorities claim that they “just can’t seem to figure out” where the guns are coming from. How convenient.
From all indicators, Hadiya was not in a gang. She wasn’t “thugged out.” She was just an honor student who happened to live in an area where it’s easier for black teens to get access to a deadly weapon than a good education. Teens can’t find jobs and we abort them with no hope early in their lives. All the while, these kids pop up in rap music videos with stock piles of weapons and there are billboards in the city glorifying gang-affiliated rappers like Chief Keef, who’s been given a blank check from Interscope Records to promote even more of our community’s genocide.
The fact that this young girl died so close to the home of President Obama is a telling reminder that chickens are coming home to roost. Our nation allows guns to flow freely, and even simple solutions to gun control, like titling guns as we do cars (as Father Michael Pfleger has recommended) are pushed off the table. The truth is that gun manufacturers WANT thousands of guns to “disappear” every year because they make a huge profit from black-on-black crime. The recipe is simple: Inject drugs and weapons, extract education and jobs, and you’ve got yourself a healthy death march for millions of young black teenagers. You also have plenty of bodies to feed into the prison industrial complex, which is so vast and powerful that it strikes fear in President Obama himself.
Another reason that this incident brings matters front and center for the Obama Administration (which prides itself on a deep Chicago connection) is that it serves as a reminder of what happens when you overlook and neglect the constituency that has supported you more than any other president in American history. As the president cries for the little white kids at Sandy Hook, I hope he can also cry for the little girl with skin as brown and beautiful as Sasha and Malia. Rather than making the life and death of our children part of some bland, meaningless political calculation, I am hopeful that SOMEONE in the White House will consider the old fashioned notion of simply doing the right thing.
Even before this incident took place, Hadiya’s mother was planning to move out of the city of Chicago to find safety for her children.
“Believe it or not, her mom was just looking to move to Naperville,” Hadiya’s cousin, Shatira Wilks, said. “Her mom wanted her to take her kids to an even better community and make sure her education is number one. Her daughter has never ever given her mother a problem, this girl was literally a walking angel.”
Parents should not have to leave their communities to find safety and a quality education for their children. One of the lasting reflections of racial inequality is the fact that when black people are killed (as it happened when my best friend was shot in the head in front of his daughter), people somehow think that we are conditioned or immune to the violence. In fact, I’ve even heard black people say that it’s our fault that our kids are dying from guns that are made and delivered by white people. This kind of self-hate is nothing short of disgusting and embarrassing.
The “blame the negroes” line of thinking is also what has caused us to waste the Obama presidency and turn it into some kind of modern Day Juneteenth Celebration instead of using it as an opportunity for us to come together as a community to effect change. No president, black or white, should be allowed to fall asleep at the wheel when it comes to pressing issues in black communities across America. If Obama has time for the Latino and gay communities, he certainly has time for us too.
I hope that this little girl didn’t die in vain. Perhaps her life can be a reminder to all of us that we should contribute to helping to solve the violence problem and not simply blame it on ourselves. Black people don’t deserve to die any more than whites, and to think otherwise is simply racist. Our taxpayer dollars should be applied to help our communities too.