On Monday, September 16, a gunman in DC went on a rampage, leaving 13 casualties. Maybe there was a second shooter. After the incident, SWAT teams swarmed the area, investigating with a sense of appropriate fervor. People were warned to stay in their houses. A baseball game was cancelled. It was a huge story which traumatized an already traumatized nation.
The next day, Atlanticwire.com ran a thoughtful article which analyzed statistics and predicted another mass shooting in February of next year. The shooter would most likely be a 30-40(ish) white male. It would happen in the state of Washington. He would kill around 7 people and wound several more.
Boy, was that article wrong. We didn’t even make it a week. On Thursday, September 19, at least one gunman opened fire in Chicago at a public park. It was chaos, and people were running for their lives. Over 60 police responded, and the fire department had to bring hoses to get rid of all the blood once the whole thing was over. Eerily, there were 13 casualties. One was a 3 year old boy who was shot on the side of his face and will likely require extensive reconstructive surgery. Luckily, the gunman was not as accurate as the Navy shooter, and so far, none of the victims has died. Even so, the list is chilling:
• A 3-year-old boy, shot in the ear, in critical condition at Mount Sinai
• A 17-year-old girl, shot in the foot, condition stabilized at Holy Cross Hospital
• A 15-year-old boy shot in the arm, stabilized at Holy Cross
• A man, 27, shot in the leg and wrist, serious condition at Mount Sinai
• A man, 24, shot twice in the stomach, serious condition at Mount Sinai
• A man, 21, shot in the leg, serious condition at Mount Sinai
• A man, 41, shot in the buttocks, serious condition at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital
• A woman, 33, shot in the shoulder, condition stabilized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
• A man, 31, shot in the buttocks, condition stabilized at Northwestern
• A woman, 23, shot in the foot, condition stabilized at St. Anthony Hospital
• A man, 37, shot in the leg, in good condition at Stroger
• A man, 25, shot in the knee, in good condition at Northwestern
• And a man, 33, who drove himself to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park with a gunshot wound to the leg and who was treated and released.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel went on the record denouncing the mass shooting: "Senseless and brazen acts of violence have no place in Chicago and betray all that we stand for. The perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I encourage everyone in the community to step forward with any information and everyone in Chicago to continue their individual efforts to build stronger communities where violence has no place," the statement reads.
Disturbingly, the story seems lost on FOX News’ website. At the time of this writing, my screen is dominated by a photo of John Boehner, a guide to surviving Obamacare, a portrait of some Iranian leader or another, and something about Bigfoot. There’s a nondescript link to the shooting story farther down, next to something about a Canadian football team that is no longer known as “the Redskins.”
FOX is inexplicably downplaying the whole thing. “13 wounded, including 3-year-old boy, in shooting at Chicago park.” The story’s language is noteworthy. It’s a shooting. It’s an incident. Chicago is “troubled” by a history of this sort of thing.
Meanwhile, FOX’s coverage of the Navy Yard shooting has a different tone: “All victims in Navy Yard rampage ID’d.” (Emphasis mine.) There are detailed biographies of all the victims, extolling them as “good Christians” who enjoy golf and family outings. A 70 year old logistics analyst was famous for his bear hugs. Another victim was president of a Rotary Club. In all, the article devotes 2042 words to the victims of the “rampage.”
In contrast, a grand total of 527 words were devoted to the Chicago… um… incident… even though there were exactly the same number of victims, and even though it was in a public park. The compassion and human element are somewhat lacking: “Among the 13 victims were at least two other minors, ages 15 and 17.” Please give me my heartstrings back, right? You’re pulling too hard.
Why aren’t we freaking out? Why aren’t the flags at half mast? Oh… wait… they are. We’re still observing a moment of national chagrin over a guy in DC who shouldn’t have gotten the job he had because of a checkered past. I wonder if we’ll be extending our mourning until next week in honor of the Chicago wounded. Will we also be having national debates about how we failed to recognize the instability of this shooter?
I suspect we will not. You see, this isn’t a “real” mass shooting because… well… let’s just say it, shall we? It was a black guy in a sedan who pulled a drive-by style shooting on a bunch of black kids playing basketball. It was just some gang-bangers. It probably had something to do with drugs. Who cares?
Let’s continue to speak plainly. America’s gun craze is a white gun craze. White people want guns because they’re afraid of black people -- because black people drive by parks in “urban” neighborhoods and pepper each other with illegal firepower obtained from illegal drug dealing. That’s the model Americans believe in. Because we believe it, we can’t call this incident a mass shooting. That would make it too much like Columbine or Aurora or DC or Newtown. We’d have to drum up some genuine sympathy for… well… black people.
We can’t mourn the victims as a nation. If we were to do that, we’d have to look them in the face. More than that, we’d have to look ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge the racism. As long as this is just more gang-banging, it’s not really our problem. We don’t have to ask ourselves why Americans are living in poor neighborhoods ravaged by gun violence. We don't have to ask why none of the victims were logistics analysts or presidents of Rotary clubs.
We white people don’t have to worry too much about this mass shooting because we know not to go to those places. We know to stick to areas where people look mostly like us. We demand safety in "our places." When one of them is sullied with gun violence, and innocent people are hurt or killed, we come face to face with our mortality. We worry that we are not safe at our jobs, our parks, our schools. We demand acknowledgement. We demand justice.
The sad reality is that lots of Americans are not safe. They live in neighborhoods where things like this do happen with startling regularity. Gun violence is a way of life, and people live and die with barely a mention in the national news. Even sadder, our black president will likely be “measured” in his response to this incident in his home city. It is just a fact of life in America that all gun violence is not the same, and we will dismiss this rampage murder as we dismiss all such acts. We'll rush to differentiate it from "real" mass shootings, and we'll dismiss it as a problem with... something -- anything, so long as it's not a shooter going on a rampage and destroying the lives of 13 families. We will blame the victims for being in the wrong place, for living in the wrong neighborhood, and for being involved with drugs. That is, we’ll blame them if we have to talk about them at all.