A friend asked me to watch the mini-documentary “Silent Screams II (28 Classrooms)”, which speaks to the devastation and pain caused by the loss of so many young lives to Chicago gun violence–about 28 classrooms worth of school-aged youth since 2008. I just finished watching the video (you can view it for yourself below), and all I can say is that my feelings about Chicago gun violence are complex–having grown up there myself and also having lost my younger brother to Chicago gun violence on August 26th of last year.
I personally feel the pain of all of these families on the senseless losses of their loved ones. I hurt for them and it reopens the wounds of my personal loss every time I see another family there going through the same thing.
With that said, I don’t think that we can ignore the politics, and the fact that Obama is JUST NOW saying something about the violence in the place that helped him get his political career started. It was only last week that Obama showed up in Chicago to say anything on the matter.
I was moved to tears by the images in the video. Nevertheless, I am personally offended by the part of this film that transposes Obama’s words about his reaction to the murders of the little (mostly white) children of the Newtown, CT Sandy Hook shootings over images of suffering Chicago families. The loss of young lives in Chicago has not been a priority of the president. The truth is that he and his wife (a Chicago native) have been silent on the senseless losses of lives in mostly Black and Latino communities in Chicago.
The “Silent Screams II (28 Classrooms)” video is saying that Obama spoke to the families of Chicago gun violence the way that he spoke to those more affluent mostly white families after the Sandy Hook school shootings, and that is a lie. It is misleading the viewers to juxtapose Obama’s words to the Newtown families as if this is what he said to the Chicago families.
The truth is that the Obamas only decided to speak up on Chicago’s once the Hadiya Pendleton case went national–essentially for political gain under the pressure to say something. It was only when a young, beautiful teen with a promising future, was murdered, and public outrage hit an all-time high, that Obama could no longer ignore the violence in the city he called home. Let’s not also forget that Hadiya had performed at Obama’s inauguration only days before her murder, making a more direct connection between she and the president.
The Obamas’ ACTIONS have shown us that the lives of the HUNDREDS of mostly Black and brown people murdered in Chicago don’t mean as much as those 26 lives lost in the Sandy Hook shootings. Political leaders and the public at large continuously underscore the notion that Black lives are close to valueless. We ought to be honest about what the actions of these politicians tell us about how they feel about the social ills that plague poor and Black communities around the country.
I grieve for and with these families. The violence that is stealing our children and young adults must stop. I contend that part of the solution to this issue is to stop our worship of political leaders who abuse the people’s faith in them.
Having a Black face is not enough to show that you love the community. The so-called community leaders and politicians MUST show it with their actions. And, if they fail to do so, they don’t deserve to have people follow them.