It’s been nearly two months since the events of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place. Since then, those across all forms of media have dissected the story from every possible angle — composing and recomposing the narrative of events so as to help make sense of such a vile and surreal act.
In the same amount of time, between Dec. 14 of last year and Feb. 8 of this year, 65 individuals were murdered in the city of Chicago. The makeup of these individuals is overwhelmingly from one group: young black males. Of these 65 homicides, 22 of the victims were children under the age of 18.
The events that transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary are, without a doubt, tragic. There is no question that the deranged murder of young children and their teachers garnered the attention of national news. And it’s understandable that millions across the country were so shocked that the shooting happened. On the surface, it might appear as if the circumstances and background between events in Newtown and Chicago are inherently different. But one cannot ignore the fact that the result is very much one in the same.
With the exception of a quick story occasionally acknowledging the fact that the homicide rate in Chicago is dramatically higher now than it has been in recent memory, the events transpiring in Chicago go widely unreported on a daily basis. In this, it can be said that the news coming out of Chicago is news of statistics, not humanity. This begs the question of why? Why is the reality that 22 minors were killed in the streets of Chicago not on the front page of every newspaper in America?
The answer is shockingly simple: It’s not news.
The murder of 22 children in a poor area of Chicago is not news because the killing of young, minority males occurs on a daily basis all across the country. Instead of being outraged and shocked at such occurrences, we as a society have grown desensitized to them quite simply because of their frequency, and the ease of dismissing these homicides as “gang violence which would never affect my children or myself.”
This mindset is not confined to Chicago. A comment on a Los Angeles Times article last year detailing the murder of a 15-year-old Latino boy named Miguel Sanchez in North Hollywood dismissed him simply as “another dead gangbanger.”
It is important to consider just what the implications of this mindset are. For those of us who are lucky enough to be born into a life that does not expose us to the dangers of gang violence, the realities of gang violence seem far enough away to simply declare these homicides as part of a different world.
This is a mistake, and one that has found itself deeply rooted in modern American society.
Coverage of these events is not considered, mostly because there is no demand. Media coverage is dictated quite finely by economics. In order to sell ad space, media outlets such as newspapers and TV channels — broadcast and cable alike — must sell stories in order to gather the largest audience. Evidently, the stories that are successful must offer something off the beaten path. A 16-year-old black male who was shot and killed in the 3400 block of West 59th Place is not off the beaten path.
The murder of minority individuals, most often by other minority individuals through gang violence, is a bitter reality that plays out across the United States on a daily basis. It is regrettable that these killings go unreported simply because they are deemed unimportant.
The 22 murdered children in Chicago come from families themselves. They have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends who all valued their lives as much as anyone else values their own friends and family. It’s harrowing, to say the least, that their lives are deemed less valuable simply because of their color, economic status or location of birth.
It is time that we take interest in all of our people; horror, heartbreak and sadness knows no color line. It affects us all, and by only finally shining a light on the issue can the problem begin to be fixed.
Matthew Tinoco is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism. His column “Mixing Colors” runs Mondays.