In the first half of this year, the Chicago recorded over 250 murders (up 35% from 2011) mostly due to gang violence. The city recorded more casualties than Iraq & Afghanistan combined during the same time span. I never heard of the state of the city until the mass shootings in July at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed and 58 injured. Black commentators began to complain about the lack of coverage of the Chicago violence. Shamefully, black-on-black crime has become a dog-bites man story.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-30).
America stops in its tracks when the peace of white suburbia gets disrupted, but somehow manages to get along well with persistent violence in urban areas (as long as the victims are black). Let a white kid get shot and you will learn their life plans, favorite flavor of ice cream, and every excruciating detail of the event. Let a black kid get shot and you will see a brief story describing the basic who, where, what and why without much further insight.
This reminds me of the day of the tragic shootings at Columbine High in April 1999. I had just arrived to my favorite class in seminary and was prepared for a stimulating discussion. A white classmate entered the room and requested that the professor cancel class because of a shooting had occurred at a school over a thousand miles away. I retorted without thinking “people got shot everyday where I’m from and the world goes on. I am not about to cry and miss a week of Kierkegaard for some people I don’t even know.”
She stared at me in horror. How can one pursuing studies in professional ministry be so cold? I had not realized how society had desensitized me myself. Coming of age during the crack era of Washington, DC did not allow for much grief. People were dropping like flies—and people you knew at that.
My high school principal was wont for ending the Monday morning announcements with who got killed over the weekend and instruct us to proceed with having a nice day. I didn’t know what a grief counselor was until one showed up after someone I didn’t even know in my college dorm got killed in a car accident.
This occurs in the same nation founded over 200 years ago with a straight face on the principle “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” while African men and women were in bondage as chattel. The diminished value of black life was further institutionalized in the Constitution by counting them as only three-fifths of a person for the sake of apportionment.
Laws are much easier to change than attitudes. Imagine how it must feel to grow up black in America and nobody cares if the sanctity of your life is violated. This is evident in the media obsession with details of every white woman who breaks a nail, but outlets had to be shamed into reporting on Phylicia Barnes, the black teen who went missing in Baltimore around Christmas 2011. Unfortunately, her remains were found almost four months later. Imagine what a difference timely reporting would have made.
God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). We must do likewise by valuing all human life equally. No more crying over white losses, while turning a blind eye to those of color. I hope to see prayer vigils for urban violence in suburbia. Let’s work together to reduce the propensity toward violence everywhere. No need to go abroad, there is more than enough work in our own mission fields.
How is a young person expected to treat as sacred that which all messages around them say is worthless? If no one else cares about their lives, God does. As long as God has people on the ground, there should be an outpouring every time one of his children falls.