Was Bazelon’s aim true: On this morning’s front page, the New York Times reports on the homicide rate in Chicago.
The report features a photograph of a young black child in Chicago. We’ll guess that he’s eleven or twelve. He’s at a peace vigil, holding this sign:
“DON’T SHOOT. I want to grow up.”
Younger kids stand beside him.
For our money, Monica Davey’s report was a bit light on the information. In Chicago, homicides were up 16 percent from 2011, she says, even as overall crime in the city dropped. But how did the number of homicides in Chicago compare to the numbers from earlier decades? How does Chicago’s homicide rate compare to rates in other cities?
Davey skipped questions like that. She also skipped a comparison we expected to see—she made no comparison to the shootings in Newtown.
The child in Chicago who wants to grow up isn’t in the first grade. But why did the press corps react so strongly to Newtown’s killings as compared to the ongoing killings in Chicago? Some distinctions between the two situations are are obvious. But in the first few days after Newtown, Emily Bazelon offered a rumination about this topic at Slate.
I don’t respond the same way to city kids, Bazelon basically said:
BAZELON (12/15/12): I was on the train home from New York to Connecticut Friday afternoon when a woman sitting one row away and facing me got a text that made her gasp. She’d learned that a friend had a granddaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and it wasn’t clear if she was safe. The mutual friend who’d sent the text didn’t know one way or the other. That didn’t sound good: It was late in the day, several hours after the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at the school.We have continued to puzzle over Bazelon’s piece.
The woman on the train pulled her little boy close and her eyes started tearing. Mine too. Outside the window, the nondescript brown landscape of Fairfield County rolled by. The woman got off the train before she found out the fate of her friend’s granddaughter. And of course I hoped, and for a moment prayed, that the girl was rattled but fine, one of the hundreds of kids whose parents rushed to the Newtown fire station to swoop them up with the most exquisite and intense relief. But just as naturally, I kept dwelling on the 20 families for whom fear had frozen into horror and then despair.
They could be us, and we could be them, right? It was so easy for me at least to feel that way, looking up Newtown’s suburban demographics: Family median income $100,000 a year, almost half the town families with children, nearly three-quarters married couples. I don’t live in the suburbs, but I live in a small-city neighborhood filled with two-parent families about 45 minutes from Newtown, and I have a son in elementary school. That was more than enough to share in the chill that spread through the country Friday. I wish I identified as much with the families of drive-by shootings of children in my city, but I don’t. I use class and, I’m sure, race to distance myself. That doesn’t work this time though.
On the one hand, it’s abundantly clear that the nation’s elites care more about Newtown’s kids than about Chicago’s. Bazelon was surprisingly frank in bringing that story on home:
“I wish I identified as much with the families of drive-by shootings of children in my city,” she said. “But I don’t.” (She linked to this news report about the drive-by shooting of a one-year-old child in New Haven.)
On the whole, the nation seems to care more about those kids in Newtown than about that kid in Chicago. Regarding Bazelon’s statement, it’s odd to see someone be so frank about this fact and so unapologetic.
We’ve puzzled about that piece ever since. Today’s photo and slightly flat news report brought the piece to mind.
What Reverend Braxton said: Yesterday, as we waited to do a radio show, we listened to the panel discussion in the preceding hour. At one point, Rev. Brad Braxton, Senior Pastor at the Open Church in Baltimore, made us put down our book and listen.
Discussing the killings in Newtown, Rev. Braxton said we ought to be mourning the loss of the killer too. Latonia Valincia agreed; E. R. Shipp took a different view.
We listened to Braxton again today. This happens about halfway through.