Another tragic killing. Now what else do you say?

When a six-year-old is shot dead in her home, we see the grief, and read of another young life lost.

When a 13-year-old is murdered on a basketball court, we see the blood, hear the rage and fury and sense another tragic loss.

Is that all there is to report?

It’s not and let me explain why.

When we read these isolated anecdotes of lives seized by the violence plague, we  have no idea of the context. We do not know if this was the 10th violent crime or the first in years. We don’t know if this community has suffered from severe poverty and isolation or whether it’s a place that had seemed immune to the violence.

And when we see these gripping dramas and nothing more, it only adds to the impression that violence is random and unchecked in black and Latino neighborhods, that there are no forces behind the numbers except for an unexplained embrace of violence, and that there’s no hope because nothing seems to be happening, and nobody of importance is speaking up. We only see the tears and read of the cries.

The solution is not that difficult. As we talked about at our workshop this weekend, we need to begin adding context to our reporting. We need to supply more statistics about the levels of crime, unemployment and incarceration in the places where the crimes take place. We need to understand better the way gangs interact and how they create worlds that others try to copy.

We need, as psychologist Michelle Hoy-Watkins explained, to explain the trauma that takes place and to return in time to explain how it lingers for all of those touched by the violence.

Rather than catching a few words form the folks on the street where blood was spilled, we need to talk to community leaders and those who know what has been happening. We shouldn’t invite or incite fears. But nor should we evade reality and that is something we can offer by drawing the larger, more complicated picture of what’s happening in some Chicago communities.

Begin with the folks from CeaseFire, who told us that they would gladly help in searching out statistics for our stories, or for reliable community voices, or, if we care to catch the whole picture, the stories of those who succeed or fail or struggle in these streets. Tio Hardiman is the head of CeaseFire Illinois and he can be reached at their headquarters at the School of Public Health at UIC. 312-996-8775|

You don’t have to ask the first neighbor passing by what happened. You can find an organization that knows the neighborhood and which can explain what is taking place. That is one reason why we developed a list of nearly 400 organizations that work in some ways with youths in the Chicago area. It is the first and only list of its kind and you can find it at the bottom of the chicagoistheworld/notalone webpage. This is it:

Most of these suggestions come from the guide we developed on covering youth violence. It’s list in the prior post here.

Will this kind of reporting make a difference?  I think it will. What do you think? or 312 369 7782


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