On Tuesday January 29, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, an honour student who had just performed at President Obama's inauguration, was gunned down in a Chicago park. Hadiya was described by her father as a "shining light", and she dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Now her light has been put out and her dream is over.
Hadiya Pendleton wasn't in any kind of a gang; she was a young girl who had been let out of school early on Tuesday after an exam and was huddling under a canopy to escape the rain. The human refuse who killed her had apparently been targeting someone else, but as is often the case with these troglodytes, was probably too stupid and cowardly to discern the identity of the target before showering her with bullets. Hadiya Pendleton, who could have been your daughter or your sister, was shot in the back in the rain, killed with less compassion than the humane society shows when it puts down dogs or cats.
This brings the number of gun deaths in Chicago since the New Year to 42 -- the deadliest January for the city in 10 years. Last year, Chicago bore witness to over 500 gun-related homicides -- and if trends continue, this year's total will surpass that. For those among you whose brains are already so eagerly tap dancing to the tune of handguns being "the problem," know that handguns are essentially banned in the city of Chicago.
Gang members and criminals appear uninterested in the law's opinion on the legality of their firearms. Those of you who remain unconvinced and still blame handguns are welcome to believe what you like -- as doing so is likely in your nature. Others may now be turning to another proverbial bogeyman -- the immemorial slander on the poor that "poverty" is the cause of these violent murders or that gangs are to blame. Although both of these variables contribute to violence, both are also symptoms of an underlying and more serious problem. I believe that but for that underlying problem, both poverty and gangs would be reduced in scope to such an extent as to render them near irrelevant to the lives of people in low income areas of Chicago.
About 72 per cent of black Americans are raised in single parent households. The "single parent" in these households is usually a single mother. This is relevant because when one talks about "gun violence in Chicago," what one is really talking about is young black men murdering one another (and innocent people in their neighbourhoods). And when one talks about "young black men," what one really means, in many cases, is children from the homes of unwed single mothers murdering children from the homes of other unwed single mothers.
If you pay attention to the funerals of young men murdered in gang violence, you will see a parade of grandmothers, aunts, sisters and perhaps the occasional uncle, but fathers are a sight as rare as a pink diamond. Being born to a single mother is a greater predictor of crime than race or poverty. The increasing out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States, across all ethnic groups, is likely the precursor to an increase in social problems -- more high school drop outs despite more money for schools, more juvenile delinquents despite more money for rehabilitation, more underachievers despite more money spent on teachers. This is not just a black problem; It's a family structure problem. But because black Americans and Hispanics do not have white privilege to help offset their missing father figures, they are hardest hit.
Resistance to the very banal notion that inadequate parenting is more closely connected to young boys murdering one another (and unlucky strangers) than handguns or poverty is indicative of the extent to which the people who can least afford to make poor decisions when it comes to parenting (the lower to middle classes and visible minorities) are being led astray. There is an industry permanently employed and entirely vested in proving the traditional two-parent family an anachronism. Those who suggest the heresy that perhaps the reason crime in areas of Chicago is so high is because the children there are being raised in high proportion by single mothers can expect the typical slurs, slanders and rigged "studies" hurled in their direction. Hadiya Pendleton's death is for me the last straw.
The President, who is himself the head of a beautiful family, needs to tell to America's face not the truth it wants to hear, but the truth its needs to hear right now -- when it comes to handgun violence in places like Chicago, marriage and fathers are the answer.