Where Is the Outrage?

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Photo by basheertome via Flickr

My morning routine: wake up, have a cup of coffee, get the kids to school, scroll through news headlines on Google before starting work. This morning, one headline caught my eye: 13 shot in Chicago city park. 

I clicked over to Facebook, fully expecting see comment after comment expressing outrage at yet another mass shooting. After all, the Navy Yard shooting happened just a few days ago. Newtown was not that long ago. And my Facebook friends, anyway, are pretty sick of the death and destruction.

But I saw nothing on Facebook about the shootings.

I switched back to Google, expecting to see a stream of nearly-constant updates and a bevy of accompanying pieces bemoaning yet another mass shooting.

Nothing beyond the initial article.

It is now nearly 8 hours later, and I have yet to see a single comment beyond mine (“13 people shot in a Chicago park apparently gets less social media play than a school shooting”) in any of my social media feeds. Google News still has just one story about the shooting on their main page, “13 Wounded in Barrage of Gunfire at Chicago Park.” Ironically, just underneath that is a Washington Post article entitled, “What Do You Do With the Site of a Mass Shooting?” Sadly, and perhaps predictably, the article isn’t about the Chicago park; it’s about Newtown and the Navy Yard, Virginia Tech and Oak Creek.

This kind of disproportionate coverage is shameful. Are the 13 wounded in Chicago any less important than the 12 dead in DC? Do we not care because they’re not yet dead — or because those wounded in these attacks were likely poor and of color? According to the New York Times article, the only one on Google’s news page, the Chicago shooting is “the latest flare-up of street violence that has confounded city leaders,” not the latest in a long line of mass shooting in the US.

Did you catch that? The problem, this time around, was framed as a flare-up of street violence; the not-so-subtle implication for most readers is “so you don’t have to worry about it.”

Is that a provocative statement? Perhaps. But think about it: When a school or workplace shooting occurs, the media and public go crazy, because the prevailing story line is “all those innocents!” We think about innocent people, merely going about their day at school or at work, and we are outraged and scared. We take to the Internet to share our collective disbelief and desire for change, and the conversation continues for days, if not weeks.

That’s not happening this time around, and I think it’s because too many people, somehow and for some reason, don’t view this shooting as an assault on innocents — despite the fact that it happened at a playground and that a 3-year-old boy was shot in the face!

Too many people, I think, view this as a gang-thing, a black-thing, a poor-thing — and you know what? While all of those factors — gang, race and poverty may well come to play — the fact remains that this is a human thing. Human beings were shot, by at least one other human being. All of those lives have value.

In the days to come, I hope we hear the stories of the people in that park. I hope that someone, somewhere, will write an article and profiles their hopes and dreams, lives and families, just as they did for the victims of the Newton shooter. And I hope that someday, our collective moral outrage will apply to every single incidence of violence, instead of the ones that occur in “good neighborhoods.”




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