The CBS Local headline reads, “8 Killed, 40 Wounded In Chicago Weekend Shootings.”
Are you aware that Jeffrey Brinson and Davon Smith were two of the homicide victims? Did you hear about the murders of Jermale Richardson, Jamal Thomas, Faizon Smith, Vincent Zarco, and two other unidentified victims at the time of this report?
The Trace describes these sobering incidents as “mass shootings,” yet coverage has been limited to a ripple at best.
— The Trace (@teamtrace) October 18, 2016
If you’re not a resident of West Garfield Park, West Rogers Park, Chicago’s Southside, Northside neighborhoods, and other areas of urban Cook County, the names are unfamiliar to you. The unfamiliarity is on the level of newly discovered distant constellations or even the victims of the latest atrocities in Mosul, Iraq, and Aleppo, Syria.
But if I ask you if you’ve heard about the San Bernardino shootings or other horrific mass shootings in recent history, you may not only know the shooters’ and victims’ names, but you may be able to recall details about the scenes, the dates, and other visceral information.
No, this isn’t an attempt to depreciate one life over another or make a case for what deaths deserve a place in your heart. Instead, the juxtaposition of the human fatalities is meant to unveil a worrisome truism about how Americans have subconsciously set a value on human carnage.
In the recent Chicago killings, something that has sadly emerged as commonplace in daily urban living, the victims have several things in common: the deceased were all black males under 40.
According to U.S. News, at the start of September 2016, more than 449 people fell victim to homicide in Chicago. It’s a 50 percent rise compared to the same time last year and 80 percent higher than the city’s 2014’s murder tally.
Police officers are working harder than they ever have, yet their efforts are not keeping pace with the daily killings. My heart bleeds for the brave men and women in blue. Still, despite confiscating 7,000 or so illegal weapons off the streets of Chicago — over a 20 percent rise from the previous year — people are still dying by guns at alarming rates.
In the face of Chicago’s widespread gun violence, national news outlets are tone deaf and absent as a city implodes.
Chicago Sees 1000 More Shootings Than This Time Last Year – WCBI: WCBIChicago Sees 1000 More Shootings Than T… https://t.co/v8EGVG3SP3
— MurderIncChi (@MurderIncChi) October 18, 2016
Let’s look at some statistics, shall we? Last year, PolitiFact performed a study on homicide rates versus deaths by terrorism. It found that over the preceding decade, nearly 302,000 people were murdered in America compared to only 71 who perished by acts of terrorism. Currently, homicide has claimed the lives of 596 Chicagoans this year, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In 2014 alone, 15,809 people were violently killed by acts of others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the same period, 42,773 people died by suicide. Even the latter gets less news coverage than a lone gunman — with alleged ties to terrorism — who kills a handful of individuals in a rampage.
— DNAinfo Chicago (@DNAinfoCHI) October 18, 2016
Something is wrong with this picture.
Generally, attention is given to the person or act that creates the loudest noise. It’s just human conditioning; chemical and sensory motor processes often drive our actions.
Somehow and in some bewildering manner, Americans have grown desensitized over news of another shooting involving a young black victim.
At some point in our nation’s history, we’ve settled into the habit of ignoring black-on-black crime, no differently than we ignore a nagging spouse or department store music playing in the background. In each example, we hear — by the fact that we have ears designed to discern sounds — but we subconsciously drown out the noise by not paying attention or acting on the stimulus.
No single idiom can establish a set of behaviors to account for every scenario, and no guiding principals exist to account for the every inescapable circumstance that life throws at us daily. But has journalism morphed into an enterprising behemoth that turns a blind eye to death and dying by systematically ranking murder types?
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists are bound by standards in the same manner as other media professionals are governed. I am particularly drawn to its Preamble to its Code of Ethics.
“…public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.”
For me, what stands out most is “fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.”
Meanwhile, Chicago is burning.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]