Friday, February 1, 2013

A sad story, but is this really what we ought to be known for these days?

Hadiya Pendleton may well be the most prominent Chicagoan in the national news these days – which is really disgusting because she didn’t do anything that ought to warrant it.

Hadiya was a 15-year-old girl who attended King College Preparatory High School on the South Side who suffered the fate of many urban individuals – she happened to be outside in a public park when she got caught in the crossfire from rival street gangs.

SADLY ENOUGH, HADIYA is dead. Locally, she made the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times both Wednesday and Thursday. The story is being picked up nationally.

It is the lone news coming out of Chicago these days for anyone in other parts of the country who is paying attention.

A young life snuffed out before she could accomplish anything lasting. Which is a shame because there was evidence that she had promise to be capable of doing great things – which is something that young people living in certain suburban communities take for granted.

Much was made of the angle that she was part of a group of students from Chicago that went to Washington, D.C., to see the inaugural celebration of Barack Obama getting a second term as president.

ABOUT ONE WEEK later, she was a corpse.

Obama himself has felt compelled to express his condolences, although I expect that is because it has been noted that the park where Hadiya was killed was less than one mile from the president’s home on the border between the Kenwood and Hyde Park neighborhoods.

It happened close to a place we’d like to think is safe, although I’m sure there are those who want to believe that all of Chicago – or perhaps all of urban life – is inherently flawed and dangerous.

So yes. The death of Hadiya Pendleton is terrible. It is tragic. We probably did lose somebody special – with the sad thing being we’ll never know what we lost because she died so young.


I have to confess that there’s something about this particular story and the way it is getting picked up that bothers me. Annoys me. Goes just about to the point of disgusting me.

It is that it seems to promote the concept that this death is sad and a loss, but that there are other urban deaths that just don’t matter.

As though there are somehow some people who deserve to have their lives snuffed out at a moment’s notice, and that their losses are worthy of being ignored.

BECAUSE, LET’S BE honest. If it weren’t for the fact that this particular story occurred in a place that could be described as having proximity to Barack Obama, there’s a good chance that even it would have been ignored.

There would be people who would think of the death of yet another African-American teenager as something that we ought not to get so obsessed about. After all, paying attention to each and every death is depressing. It would be such a comedown!

That is a despicable attitude. Because for just about every urban death occurring due to violence, there is somebody out there for whom it is a tragic loss. They are all human beings.

Being in the newsgathering business for the past quarter century, I have written about my share of mayhem. I also recall my old City News Bureau days when I used to have to try to document every single murder – so I know that all cases are not equal.

BUT I CAN’T get over the feeling that playing this one death up so much makes it seem like we ought to regard the other deaths that have occurred – and will occur throughout the rest of this year – as something unavoidable, if not quite deserved.

And that attitude sounds too much like surrender. It is just sick!


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