Just a week ago, Hadiya Pendleton must have felt on top of the world. She was a majorette performing for Barack Obama‘s Second Inaugural. It’s a huge honor for any teenager to go to Washington DC and perform at such a historic occasion. She would have had no clue that the horrific gun violence that has plagued her hometown of Chicago would coming for her next.
But a little more than a week later, Hadiya and a group of friends were huddled under a park canopy, trying to escape some heavy rain, when a gunman opened fired on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back and died later at a local hospital. She was 15 years old, and most likely not the target of the shooting. She was just another innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire.
For months, we’ve been discussing gun violence in response to mass shootings in towns like Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut. We’ve discussed assault weapons bans and improving the mental health system. The thing is, those measures will do little to help urban violence. And for the most part, we’re completely ignoring the fact that cities like Chicago are losing young people at an alarming rate. Where’s our outrage and concern over these murders? And will the death of a beautiful 15-year-old girl, who so recently went to DC to participate in one of our country’s great traditions, finally bring more focus to deaths in Chicago that happen with a sickening regularity.
Hadiya’s death is tragic. But it’s not like she is the only tragic story to be found in that city. What about Shirley Chambers, the mother who has lost all four of her children to gun violence? What about Christopher Lattin, Jr., another 15-year-old shot to death on the streets of Chicago earlier this month? What about Terika Moore, Allen Smiley, Dimitri Buford, Antonio Fenner, and Norman Stokes, all who died from gunshots in just the last weekend?
Will Hadiya’s death spark outrage in the way that mass shootings have? I have no idea. But I hope that something will. I hope something will make us all remember that these tragedies don’t just come every few months to towns that never expect to deal with violence. There are some cities where violence is beginning to look like a way of life. We should be equally upset by this and equally dedicated to doing everything we can to help address these problems.
This latest death is tragic, but so is every gun death that occurs across our country, in our cities or our small towns. They all deserve to be addressed and remembered.
[UPDATE: In response to the comment thread of this piece, we have a follow-up article on victim-blaming teens for hanging out with ‘the wrong crowd.‘