The War Against Black Men
Chicago’s murder statistics tell a story of young black males without fathers and at risk.

Chicago police at a crime scene, April 8, 2011


Lee Habeeb

The date was January 12, 2013. You probably didn’t hear about this tragedy involving guns and two teenage boys. But this was the headline in the Chicago Tribune: “Boys, 14 and 15, killed in separate shootings Friday.” You didn’t hear about it because such events aren’t news in Chicago. They’re ordinary daily occurrences. As we continue to hear calls for ever-tightening gun laws from the Obama administration, and from states such as New York, it is worth thinking about those headlines in Chicago. And in inner cities all around America, places where strict gun laws are already in place. Places where the weapon of choice isn’t an AR-15 but a semiautomatic handgun — the same kind of weapon most Americans use reasonably, and safely, to secure their most precious assets: their loved ones and their property.

So let’s go back to that wretched January 12 story from Chicago, President Obama’s hometown. The murdered 14-year-old had a name, Rey Durante. He was gunned down by two shooters while standing on the porch of his Humboldt Park home. The two men opened fire, according to news accounts, near midnight, striking him multiple times in the chest.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, he was lying just inside his home, bleeding from several bullet wounds. He died there. Police found blood all over the front steps and more than half a dozen shell casings on the sidewalk. He would have turned 15 in a few days, his stepmother told reporters.

On the sidewalk near the crime scene, a local paper reported, the father of one of the boy’s friends cried as he paced near a group of teenagers. When a neighbor asked him what had happened, his response was simple — and heartbreaking.

“A little boy just got murdered,” he said.

Earlier that same day, a 15-year-old boy named Victor Vega was approached by a gunman in the Chicago neighborhood known as Little Village. The gunman shouted a gang slogan and then opened fire, striking the 15-year-old in the torso. Vega was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m., according to the office of the Cook County medical examiner.

Both shootings were gang-related, police suspected.

Twenty children and six adults were killed in Newtown, Conn., last month, and the media quickly, and justifiably, descended to tell the tragic story. In the first few weeks of January in Chicago, 25 people have already been murdered. Most were young black and Hispanic men, murdered by other young black and Hispanic men.

In Chicago, it’s Newtown every month. But the media haven’t converged on Chicago this month.

You don’t know the names of those kids and adults gunned down in Chicago this January, all by handguns. But the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye website tracks the Chicago body count since January 1: Gregory Bady, 28; Damian Barnes, 22; Marcus Wallace, 23; Tyrone Soleberry, 39; Brian Cross, 34; John Taylor, 23; Darville Brown, 24; Tyshawn Blanton, 31; Marcus Turner, 19; Lavonshay Cooper, 22; David Bartzmark, 25; Michael Kozel, 57; Ulysses Gissendanner, 19; Kevin Jemison, 29; Myron Brown, 30; Devanta Grisson, 19; Octavius Lamb, 20.

You don’t know the names of the other 530 young people, most of them minorities, who were killed in Chicago between 2008 and January 2012 either. You don’t know their names, and the national media haven’t parked their media trucks in Chicago, because the liberal narrative does not offer easy answers to the problems haunting Chicago.

You don’t know their names because the real racism that exists in the media is this: A young black male’s life is not worth reporting when it is taken by another black male.

You don’t know the names because the media don’t or can’t blame the deaths in Chicago on a weapon like the AR-15, or on the NRA.

You don’t know their names because the media aren’t interested in getting at the real cause of much of the senseless gun violence in America: fatherlessness.

About 20,000 people live in my hometown of Oxford, Miss., and there are probably twice as many guns. Folks own handguns, shotguns, rifles, and all kinds of weapons I’ve never even heard of. But I can’t remember the last murder story in the local paper.

That’s because my town has lots of guns, but lots of fathers, too.

Chicago doesn’t have a gun problem; it has a father problem.

Gun control isn’t the problem on Chicago’s streets; self-control is.

When young men don’t have fathers, they don’t learn to control their masculine impulses. They don’t have fathers to teach them how to channel their masculine impulses in productive ways.

When young men don’t have fathers, those men will seek out masculine love — masculine acceptance — where they can find it. Often, they find it in gangs.

In my little town, if some boys tried to form a gang and do violence on our streets, the fathers wouldn’t bother calling the sheriff. Those boys would face a gang of fathers hell bent on establishing order in our community. And if that meant using physical force, so be it.

Back in 2005, William Raspberry, the late Washington Post columnist and no conservative, wrote “The Elephant’s Tale,” a column on inner-city black fatherlessness.

It turns out that, some years before, game managers in South Africa had had a problem with an elephant herd at Kruger National Park. It was growing beyond the park’s ability to sustain it. The experts came up with what they thought was a brilliant two-phase solution: They moved some of the herd to the Pilanesberg game park and killed off some of the elephants that were too big to transport.