America's Real Racism? Ignoring The Senseless Killing Of Our Black, Fatherless Boys | Opinion

If you weren’t paying close attention, you wouldn’t have noticed the scant press coverage about the shooting spree in Chicago. “As Chicago weather warms, 84 people shot in nation's third-largest city in week,” read the headline from the local NBC affiliate website. Nine were fatalities.

There were more than 1,400 homicides in Chicago in 2016 and 2017, and though there had been some success in the past several months in lowering those numbers, it turns out much of it may have been due to the weather: Chicago endured one of the coldest Aprils on record. Once the weather broke, so too did a spasm of violence.

Here are just a few of the stories you probably didn’t see:

On May 5, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the stomach in an East Garfield neighborhood, guilty of nothing but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Police said it happened after a man pulled out a gun after arguing with a woman and fired into a crowd,” a local TV reporter reported.

On the same night, a shooting near Mt. Sinai Hospital left two women injured and forced the hospital to go into lockdown mode.

There was more.

“Several of the incidents, including a drive-by shooting late Friday in which a 41-year-old man and 17-year-old boy were wounded, appeared to be gang-related,” the local TV website reported. “In two separate shootings Saturday afternoon on the West Side, a 26-year-old man and a 25-year-old man who police said are documented gang members were shot. The 25-year-old who was shot multiple times as he rode a bike was rushed to a nearby hospital and listed in critical condition,” police said.

And more.

“In the latest homicide, a 35-year-old man was mortally wounded late Sunday near his right armpit,” the report continued. “Police did not detail the circumstances of the man's death, but according to police records, he was shot in the same area that has seen five shooting incidents in the last week.”

And more.

“Early Sunday morning, two men, ages 22 and 24, were wounded as they walked out of a building on the same block where the 12-year-old boy was shot hours earlier. Those two incidents happened about two blocks away from the site of another homicide.”

You didn’t hear about any of these shootings, even though more black men and women were shot this past week in Chicago than in the last few mass school shootings combined.

In Chicago, it’s Parkland every week.

But the media hasn’t turned this frenzy of shootings into a round-the-clock marathon like they did with Parkland. Schools across America aren’t organizing mass protests on behalf of all the young black men and women shot and killed in the past two years in the Windy City.

The Chicago Tribune’s RedEye website used to track the names of the men and women shot and killed in Chicago. They stopped back in 2015. The body count didn’t.

You don’t know the names of the thousands of inner city men and women gunned down in Chicago because the media only seems to care about the death of black men when the person doing the killing is wearing a blue uniform.

Michael Brown. Terence Crutcher. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Americans know those names. They should.

But Americans know none of the thousands of innocent young black men and women killed by other black men in our nation’s third largest city—and across America. There’s a reason. A young black male’s life is not worth reporting when it is taken by another black male. That’s the real racism that prevails in America’s newsrooms. The marginalization of black urban life.

And there’s a reason you don’t know the names of all of those black victims: because the media doesn’t much like the narrative. Journalists and activists can’t blame the deaths on assault style weapons like the AR-15. Or the National Rifle Association.

It is handguns that are the weapon of choice in most of these shootings, and Chicago already has some very strict gun control laws.

You don’t know the names because the problems seem so intractable in Chicago. Poor schools, poor employment opportunities, and poor choices led by a poverty of options are just some of the problems.

And last, far too many journalists aren’t interested in getting at a primary cause of much of the senseless gun violence in America: fatherlessness.

That’s right. Fatherlessness.

About 20,000 people live in my hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, and there are probably as many guns. But I can’t remember the last murder spree in the local paper. That’s because my town has lots of guns, but lots of fathers, too.

Indeed, if one were to look at the locations in America where the most violent crime occurs, those places will likely include high rates of fatherlessness as a feature.

The fact is, Chicago has a gun problem because it has father problems. And gun control isn’t the remedy: self-control is. When boys don’t have fathers, they have no one to teach them how to channel their masculine impulses in positive ways.

Without fathers, young men seek out masculine love and acceptance wherever they can find it. Tragically, they find that acceptance and belonging in gangs.

Ask any teacher, probation officer, social worker or pastor and they’ll tell you that fathers matter. 

GettyImages-816730124 (1) Graffiti is scrawled outside a liquor store on the city's south side on July 17, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The vast empirical evidence is in: when young people finish school, they get married, and then have kids—and in that order—they are far less likely to end up a statistic. Far less likely to be victims of sexual abuse and crime. And far less likely to be poor. 

But so little is written about what is known as “the sequence.” And not nearly enough is being done to promote the message—which should be plastered everywhere and reinforced at every turn in American life: Marriage changes everything. Love changes everything.

This much I know: if some boys tried to form a gang in our town, we fathers wouldn’t bother calling the local sheriff. The young men would soon find themselves up against a gang of fathers who would quickly restore order to their streets.

Back in 1999, William Raspberry, the late African-American Washington Post columnist, wrote The Elephants' Tale, a column on inner-city black fatherlessness.

He told the story about game managers at Kruger National Park who were experiencing problems with an elephant herd. The park was growing too fast, and some experts decided to move some of the herd to another park, and killed some of the other elephants that were too big to move.

The decision had unintended consequences. Years later, some of the younger relocated elephants started attacking a herd of white rhinos, which was at the time an endangered species.

Raspberry, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, told the story of that wild band of young elephants:

“The elephants used their trunks to throw sticks at the rhinos, chased them over long hours and great distances and stomped to death a tenth of the herd—all for no discernible reason.

“Park managers decided they had no choice but to kill some of the worst juvenile offenders. They had killed five of them when someone came up with another bright idea: Bring in some of the mature males from Kruger and hope that the bigger, stronger males could bring the adolescents under control.

“To the delight of the park officials, it worked. The big bulls, quickly establishing the natural hierarchy, became the dominant sexual partners of the females, and the reduction in sexual activity among the juveniles lowered soaring testosterone levels and reduced their violent behavior.

“The new discipline, it turned out, was not just a matter of size intimidation. The young bulls actually started following the Big Daddies around, yielding to their authority and learning from them proper elephant conduct. The assaults on the white rhinos ended abruptly.”

Fathers matter, Raspberry concluded. And though any young man can get along without the presence of a father, it is much harder for young men to succeed when entire communities are without fathers.

Why won’t the media focus on this epidemic of fatherlessness? Some journalists and commentators have sounded the alarm, but not enough.

“Almost 50 years ago, when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, the national out-of-wedlock birthrate was 7%. Today it is over 40%,” wrote Juan Williams in the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “According to the CDC, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for white children was just 2% in the 1960s. Today it is 30%. Among black children, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has skyrocketed from 20% in the 1960s to a heartbreaking 72% today.”

This epidemic is killing too many Americans. And ruining the quality of life for many more.

Take Maryah Cole, 26, who lives with her five-year-old daughter in a tough Chicago neighborhood surrounded by gang violence. She told a local reporter that she refuses to let her little girl play outdoors at the park nearby because it’s been overtaken by gambling, drinking and occasional shootings.

In August, her brother and cousin were wounded in a shooting on the block while the family, including her daughter, were gathered near their car. A truck slowed and someone fired shots killing her cousin, she said. Her brother survived.

“She hit the deck and looked at me, like, ‘Are you OK?’” Cole told a local reporter about finding her daughter, then four, lying on the ground. “It’s just the reality we live in."

That reality—the scene which plays out in too many neighborhoods across America—needs more coverage by the media. And the consequences of neighborhoods without marriage needs to be covered, too.

It’s a national health emergency. Just ask Maryah Cole.

Lee Habeeb is a Vice President of Content at Salem Media Group, and is host of Our American Stories, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

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