Politics & Policy

Too Young to Die

A vigil for Albert Vaughn (Chicago Reporter)
Why do we ignore murders of blacks by other blacks?

His name was Albert Vaughn. He was by all accounts a very good kid living in a very tough neighborhood. He was attending a party at a home that was supposed to be a haven for young inner-city Chicago teens back in April of 2008. The kids were there to enjoy some fun, drink some Kool-Aid, and listen to their favorite music, free from the fear of violence that too often inhabited the streets outside.

But violence found a way in.

At about 10:30 p.m., a scuffle broke out in the basement between two of the guests, and the fight ignited a chain of events that led to the death of the innocent young man. He was fatally struck in the head with a baseball bat as he tried to help the party chaperones usher the kids home.

That’s right. A baseball bat. The same murder weapon Al Capone killed a guy with in The Untouchables.

“He was just trying to do something good for the ’hood because there’s nothing but violence around here,” Sunday Turman, 33, who hosted the party, told reporters. “Next thing you know, he hit the ground right in front of police.”

Vaughn, a student at Julian High School, was the 23rd Chicago Public Schools student slain that school year.

From 2008 through January of 2012, 530 young people have been killed in Chicago, President Obama’s hometown. Over 80 percent of those homicides occurred in black or Latino communities on the city’s South, Southwest, and West sides.

But you don’t know Albert Vaughn’s name.

You don’t know the name of those other 22 kids from Julian High School who died in 2008.

You don’t know any of the other 530 young people, most of them minorities, who were killed between 2008 and January of 2012 in Chicago alone.

All of them were tragedies. All of those victims were too young to die.

Why didn’t you hear about their senseless deaths? Why didn’t the media make them household names? Why didn’t civil-rights leaders march, and march and march again, calling for justice?

Because they were not killed by a white guy.

No, I need to be more accurate. They were not killed by a “white Hispanic,” a new term of art the New York Times and others in the media are using to describe George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin.

Why? 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. It is worth reporting only when it is taken by a white guy.

Thus the contortions to make George Zimmerman “white.”

If this were a voter-ID story, Zimmerman would have been called an Hispanic, not a “white Hispanic.”

And if he were a presidential candidiate, Zimmerman would have been called an Hispanic, not a “white Hispanic.”

I don’t ever remember the New York Times calling President Obama the first “white black” president.

The real tragedies here are the stories not being told by the media when it comes to race. So let me continue with Albert Vaughn’s.

He was known for playing basketball with the younger kids in the neighborhood, and trying his best to keep them out of harm’s way. Not the usual activity of a teenage boy, being selfless and caring about someone other than himself.

“If he was guilty of anything, he was guilty of always protecting these kids,” said Trualanda Fields, a neighborhood mother.

Vaughn’s father, who is also named Albert, said his son was “always smiling,” dreamed of attending college, and wanted to be a football player or boxer. “He’d rather box in the ring than in the streets. He didn’t pick fights,” the elder Vaughn said.

Piers Morgan didn’t give Vaughn’s father a sit-down on CNN to talk about his grief.

President Obama didn’t talk about how young Albert could have been his son.

Albert Vaughn’s story gets worse. According to his stepmother, Yolanda Johnson, on the night of Albert’s memorial — a Sunday-night candlelight vigil — about 50 people were huddled close together when the sound of gunshots was heard. Everyone scattered as the count approached ten.

“This isn’t cool anymore,” said Johnson. “They’re trying to take out another one of my kids.” Johnson told reporters she did not feel safe anymore in her neighborhood, and planned to vacate her home.

The “they” Yolanda Johnson was talking about were other young black males, not white people. Because it is predominantly young black gang members — and, increasingly, young Hispanic gang members — who are terrorizing the streets of inner cities all over America.

Yolanda Johnson told reporters she was leaving home, and she is not alone. Blacks are fleeing northern urban centers in record numbers, many of them heading back to the South in what has been called “the Great Return.” They are fleeing the crime and the awful schools and seeking opportunity and a better quality of life.

Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 1,336,097 blacks moved to seven major southern cities alone, according to the Brookings Institute, which compiled the most recent data from the U.S. Census. Today, 57 percent of the country’s black population lives in the South, a 50-year high.

Young black males are killing one another in epic proportions, and blacks are moving in record numbers from cities like Chicago and Detroit, and the media just yawn.

That story doesn’t interest the mostly white editors and gatekeepers of the mainstream media, who presume such stories won’t draw ratings, especially from a white majority insulated from the problems of inner-city life.

And they may be right for making such assumptions.

This I know for sure: If hundreds of white kids were senselessly murdered by other white kids in high concentrations, the media would be all over it.

Chicago is Columbine every day.

But the one ratings grabber — the one story the media run to like a mouse to cheese — is the story of white-on-black crime. They jump all over it, sometimes to their own detriment, as was true in the Duke lacrosse case. The very same civil-rights leaders posing for cameras in Sanford, Fla., marched in Durham, N.C., a few years back demanding “justice” without actually knowing what had happened in that case.

We all know how that turned out. Those white lacrosse players are still living down the false accusations of a black woman, and the media — and the civil-rights leaders — just moved on.

Those civil-rights leaders I refuse to name don’t seem to care all that much about white people’s civil rights, that’s for sure. Silly ones included in our Bill of Rights such as the the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments, all of which protect the accused from mob justice, and which demand probable cause before an arrest, real-life due process for defendants, and proof beyond a reasonable doubt for any criminal conviction.

No one knows whether George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime, or whether he is a racist. Only time — and a trial — will tell. The endless speculation is just that — speculation.

Then there is the reality of Chicago, and the all-too-real tragedy of black-on-black crime in America. In his latest Wall Street Journal column, Juan Williams cited a comprehensive study by the Justice Department in 2005 on the subject that he said should have been a “clarion call” for the black community, and the nation at large.

Almost one half of the nation’s murder victims that year were black and a majority of them were between the ages of 17 and 29. Black people accounted for 13% of the total U.S. population in 2005. Yet they were the victims of 49% of all the nation’s murders. And 93% of black murder victims were killed by other black people, according to the same report.

That is astounding. Almost one in two murder victims in America is a black male, and more than likely, a young male. And nine out of ten of those young black men were killed by other young back men.

Williams went on to cite some other depressing figures. Less than half of black students graduate from high school, and the education system’s failure is “often a jail sentence or even a death sentence.”

Williams is right. For far too many black kids, public schools are jails before they get to real jails. Young men and women staring down such prospects are kids without hope. And kids without hope can do desperate, senseless things.

This year, a shocking 72 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, let alone a social scientist, to begin to make some connections about the relationship between that last shocking figure and the rest of them.

Kids — and entire communities — without fathers do not know a masculine love that is essential to a neighborhood. To its moral development. And its safety.

That we are still not properly talking about the real race problems in America — ones that include disparate sentencing and profiling — is a failure of imagination. And conscience.

Yes, Trayvon Martin’s death was a tragedy, and a nation’s prayers should go out to everyone in his family. And all of his loved ones.

But while you are at it, say a prayer for Albert Vaughn’s loved ones. Say a prayer for all of the thousands of young black Americans whose lives were cut short by senseless street violence. Say a prayer for the faceless, voiceless victims we never hear about or read about or see on TV because so many of us just aren’t interested.

Say a prayer for all of those young black men and women who were too young to die.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.

Lee HabeebLee Habeeb is an American talk-radio executive and producer. He has written columns for USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and is a columnist for Townhall.com and National Review.


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