Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

The Dilemma

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When an 11-year-old girl is struck by a stray bullet while playing video games in her father's basement, I want a SWAT team to swoop down on the neighborhood and go door-to-door looking for the shooter.

I want police to put up road blocks and search every car until they find the person who cared so little about his own life and the lives of others that he fired a weapon on the street.

I also want to distance myself from such an evil human being.

But I can't.

Truth is, every time I am confronted with the horrible things black people can do to other black people, I'm filled with anger and shame. I doubt whites feel that way about white serial killers.

For all the ranting and raving about blacks commiting most of the violent crimes, the reality is the majority of the victims of those violent crimes are black.

Darian Shellie, the North Chicago girl, who was killed Sunday night when a bullet shattered the only window in her father's basement, is one of three young black girls murdered this year by random gunfire. In March, Siretha White, 10 and Starkesia Reed, 14, were killed nine days apart on the South Side.

As noted in a lot of the posts on this blog, this is a dilemma for black people. This war for the souls and bodies of our children is being fought on our streets.

Some white people (like Jerry) can boast that they don't live in black neighborhoods and they don't care about what goes on there. But if you are black, you can't really distance yourself from the 'hood. More than likely--even if you live in Wilmette-- you may have a cousin or aunt, an old friend or a grandmother who still call troubled areas home.

Can group identity ever be anything other than a burden?

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Bravo, Bravo,Mary check this out, I grew up in Ida B. Wells Housing projects in the 70's and 80's. I am far from soft, and used to be a so called "gang member" meaning I hung with a group of young black men my age protecting each other. But I never had to shoot anyone,(by the grace of god) and none of my patna's had 2 shoot anybody, now it is beyond me why a person would want to take another brotha' or sista's life but 2 kill or babies is totally unacceptable!! This needs 2 be explained to this individual by a person he respects!! And it ain't Jesse Jackson, or Rev. Meeks, it's got 2 be from someone who the person comes in contact everyday and knows that there will be consequences for his actions. Not only is he putting his people in a bad situation, but he is killing OUR BABIES!!!! May the lord have nercy on you brotha"!!

Mary, the fact of the matter is that a lot of white people do feel somewhat ashamed by the disgusting acts of other whites. You have to remember ,though, that whites have a tendency to segregate themselve from other white social classes. (Yep, there from the trailer park, What did you expect?) For instance, I don't associate my race with the dysfunctional behavior that I see from other members of my race on the Jerry Springer show. I just consider them to be dysfunctional people regardless of their race. I assume that people of other races have a tendency to compartmentalize others of their race in the same way. As to the killing of children: It is a tragedy that makes God weep. It doesn't matter the race or location. The death of any young innocent affects us all in some way. Who knows what a murdered child could have offered the world someday? I live in a solid middle class community that typically doesn't have the problems you describe in your blog. But, if we did, I would try and do everything physically possible to stop it. I think what I am alluding to is the loss of "community" in inner city and suburban areas. Once upon a time, neighbors would step in to ensure the health and safety of others. That has not only been lost in the inner city, it is being lost in the suburbs, as well. Our society is changing for the worse and the innocent are paying the price!

you are right when suggesting that being in the "hood" is nearly an escape proof option for a plethora of black people. but when whites begin to suggest that crime in the hood is not worth caring about then this is where the line must be drawn; it is true that the pride that exuded from being black seems to have been lost by blacks caring for each other is a lost practice, but whites are not without some shameful blame in creating at least some of these self-loathing attitudes. pride stems from a sense of self worth, when a man or woman cant adequately take care of self and family due to lack of employment because of the fact that corporations relocated in the burbs and blacks couldn't travel abroad creates dispair which creates hopelessness which culminates into violence. yes blacks are hurting other blacks and yes blacks have to find a way to heal, but blacks need the business community working along side some "competent" black leaders to rid "our" community of this terrible scourge. lend a hand white america, we are not the enemy here.

These type of shootings are a tragedy of the first magnitude. Why then, is there only a shred of outrage in comparison to the incident where the boy was shot by police when, I think the facts will prove, the kid pointed the gun at the cops? Predicatably the family is saying "not our boy" and predictably, black witnesses are lying (a Hispanic witness has given a vastly different account) and predictably, the black community activists are feigning outrage with the police department while furthering their own agenda. Yet, when an innocent kid is shot and killed, scarcely a whisper. You folks need to get your priorities in order before you ask me to care about your problems.

young people who are having sex early not only because of offensive music bur also because they know they do not have to worry about the childs welfare. parents and the goverment agencies will be there to help to take over their responsibllites

But, without collectivism and generalizing, Mary, where would you be?

Perhaps group indentity means "collectivism." And, racism is a form of collectivism - attributing characteristics of an individual to a whole group, or vice versa. ITs always wrong to collectivise, or generalize.

Indeed, One only needs to find a single example of a person outside the group to show that collectivism is wrong. Compare the perfect analysis of the mother of Ryan HArris: if one of the wrongfully accused continues to be a criminal, how do we explain the other who has not?

The only answer is that we are all individuals who make choices. There is no escaping this.

No apology and excuse, or social theory, will obviate the fact that two thugs chose to severely beat up a white honor student and throw feces at him. There is no excuse: no one in wilmette caused it, and poverty didnt either.

I think that many black leaders benefit from collectivising blacks. I know too many successful blacks, and too many poor people who dont carjack, to accept the notion that blacks are struggling, and that poverty and crime are linked. The norm is to plan your parenthood, take care of your kids. The norm is that poor people dont commit crimes becasue they are poor. The poor person who does is the exception, not the norm.

when a black youth commits a crime, and his Apologizers step up to defend hom based on socioeconomic status, they do this individual criminal a great disservice: with individual rights come responsibility. Give it to him: stop invoking theory to arrive at the nonsensical conclusion that blacks need more leniency in teh ciminal system- that he deserves leniency due to his "status" or because the neighborhoods "politically charged".

The criminal is an individual who willingly, knowingly, chose to do what he did - it didnt "happen"- he has an individual right
to be prosecuted.

I tend to think the civil rights movement was/ is about liberating women. Especially black women.

The politics in the cook county govt are a fine example of how collectivism is hurting blacks. MS. Steel is a fine candidate, but, the male black leaders wont have her.

This problem will only get worse.When the whites in power reclaimed all this prime land that they had these projects built on they sent these poor black people, some hard working and some derelicts, into communities they never cared for, and some suburbs that needed the money from these section 8 vouchers that Hud gave them,they got what they wanted.Suburbs that accepted these section 8s had no idea what they were getting themselves into.They took the money and these communities have been sliding every since.The main problems with black is the same thing that is wrong with the whole country;the family structure is totally eroded.Most of the people raising children are children themselves. who end up with more kids they can handle.Men aren't stepping up and doing their part.I'm sorry but a girl can't raise a boy to be a Man.The black community has it harder because if we don't care for our own who is going to care for us.Welfare and section 8 and thing of that nature were not put in place to help blacks but poor whites first and when blacks discover they exist they then took advantage of these benefits.But crime in the black communities mainly exist because the people we put in office choose to ignore it .As long as they get their kickbacks and their cut the people who needs it the most will suffer.It's our problem because drug houses operate in broad day light with everyone's knowledge.Our problem because we have a niece or nephew or son or daughter who we see raising their children wrong and won't step in or at least say something because we'd rather not have "bad blood" with some one.But when we turn away we're the enablers.Whoever killed these children were themselves wronged by Our society and it's just the "bad blood" coming back to bite us.Maybe now we will call the police when we see the dealers or the child neglecters or someone get into a car drunk.We have to put it in someone's hand and when they fail us replace them with someone who will do the people's best interest.

"But if you are black, you can't really distance yourself from the 'hood."

speak for yourself, Mary...


I am speaking for myself, and while you may not agree with my point, obviously there are other black people who understand where I am coming from.

You know, I seem to remember not too many years ago when there was a rash of school shootings, of kids going into schools and shooting up their classmates and teachers, it was white kids holding the guns and mostly whites who were the victims. And yet, no one even suggested that it was just a white problem that the white community needs to solve. Change the race of the shooters and the victims, and all of a sudden, it's a black problem that only affects the black community and that the black community should therefore be expected to solve. That's racism in a nutshell - whites who screw up are judged as individuals, but blacks who screw up are viewed as an indictment of everyone who shares their pigmentation.


Well said.

Hi Mary. I am so sickened and disgusted by these folks in Cabrini. What IN THE WORLD could they be thinking?

The boy and his friend (who told police the boy gave him the gun he had) were out robbing folks and running from the police and the boy POINTS the gun at the police rather than putting up his hands as he is ordered to do and ALL THESE FOLKS GO OUT MARCHING AND THROWING THINGS AND SPITTING AT THE POLICE!!!

And the father of this child has been arrested 30 times or more??

Where are people going to think this child LEARNED this behavior??

In school?!?!?

It is truly TRULY a sad day when black folks have to act like this. It embarrasses me as a black woman who has NEVER BEEN ARRESTED and had ONE traffic ticket,(by the age of 32), to have other black folks act so IGNORANTLY when the police were doing their job as they're supposed to.

When I walk into my job here most of the office is white, I am so ashamed that these black folks acted like this when I do a good job and get along with my coworkers and raise my kids properly.

This makes me so sad, Mary.


Thanks you. I think a lot of African-Americans cringe whenever we hear news of some violent crime where our people are involved. When the news about the teen boy whom the police shot near Cabrini-Green came out, what did you think? When you heard about the boy had a gun? What did you think? When you learned it was BB gun? How did your opinion change.

I felt different emotions: anger, embarassment, frustration, and then numbness. Why would the child carry a BB gun that looked like a hand gun? Where was his parents to tell him that an African American girl/boy/woman/man should not carry a real looking toy gun on the street because police will overreact.

Last year, one of my neighbor's sons was playing with a realistic toy gun. He was thirteen. The gun was a squirt gun but it was black. I called his mom. She yelled at him. I was embarrased and hoped that I hadn't overstepped...

Please post your defense of the 14 year old shot in Cabriini Green. I would love to see how you spin that. Faced with such obvious facts, it makes those who do look so foolish.
Residents of the area question why the police or city did not have a press conference and pull out all the stops and apologize for this incident! This is exactly what makes black people living in the ghetto look silly. They are honestly mad about cops shooting somebody who pointed a gun at them?! That is exactly the reason attitudes against poor black people exist! Why don't you protest the upbringing of these children and the drug dealers causing this behavious, rather than police defending their life?!

It is sickening to keep reading about the violence of black on black crime. Knowing that at any moment this can happen to any of us while in the comforts of home. Equally distressing is the fact that nothing will change. Personal responsibility plays a role but also we have elected officials who run entire campaigns with pledges of helping children, job assistance among other things. I recently visited a friend who lives in the 4th Ward, that entire area is changing. But not for residents who have lived there for years. When will the lights turn on for the powers that be? If you employ people, the crime rate will go down, if you relax the restrictions placed on non-violent ex-offenders, you will have less violence? All of this is tied together. If this does not change, we will continue to see more and more crimes like this occur.

You know this is one of the hardest things that most black people have to deal with. The fact is that the vast majority of us are honest, hard-working people. I am a 22-year-old black male. I am in college to become a high school history teacher. I grew up in some of the roughest areas of the Southside. I have never been in a gang, never done or sold drugs, never really committed any crime in my life. In my own community I'm looked at as an outsider because I don't fit the thug persona and then I leave my community and I'm still an outsider because other people judge by the color of my skin. I cannot begin to count the numbers I have been stopped in neighborhoods where I “did not� belong. It feels as if I have to pay for every black person who ever committed a crime. Most of us carry this burden. Half in and half out on both sides. Then you have to hear about it from every other ethnic group how “black people are so violent and wild� and how “you don’t want to end up in one of their neighborhoods� like we are a pack of wild animals. I have trouble finding which side to agree with.

Of course group identity can be something other than a burden---change the identity. Here's how:
1. Promote married black fathers as the top of the male food chain in the community. From sports stars to rappers to every other purveyor of self-destructive imagery of black men; deny them the mantle of respect and admiration. No more "pimp" shows that show black guys, reject hip-hop until it cleans up its act (listen to late 70's and 80's rap if you don't remember what hip-hop WAS).
2. Promote young black scholars as heavily as young black lowlifes are promoted now. I personally know black boys and girls that are attending or have graduated from Harvard, MIT, and U of I Engineering School. None of them from "rich" families. Never seen any of them or any others like them on BET, MTV, or any other TV channel. Never seen them in any magazine except Ebony. Dedicate all efforts to destroy this vile idea that academic excellence is "nerdy" or "acting white" or somehow not hip and cool!
3. End the "Intellectual Apartheid" pushed on us by many so called "leaders" of our community. We are NOT the only goup to suffer the shame of slavery! In fact there was a time when Europeans were slaves of Africans! Most whites are NOT evil racists! Do not support a person even if they are a crook just because they are black!
4. Respect our women! Teach your daughters that boys with "D" averages, that drop out of school, that impregnate girls and have no job or educations are LOSERS! Raise the standard of their expectations by showing them YOUR actions as an example. This may sound crude, but where the girls go, the boys will follow---for obvious reasons. If loser black guys suddenly found the sexual door slammed in their face, their behavior WILL begin to change!

Do these four simple things and in a generation "black" will no longer mean "thug", "ghetto", "criminal", "fatherless", "poor" and all the other perjoratives that cause our identity to be a "burden". End of rant.


It was a good rant.

Mary, interesting that you should compare white anger with black anger...I've often thought about that too. Just how angry do white people get when they find a sexual predator in their neighborhood? Back to the 11-yr old getting shot...I'm beginning to think the city isn't a very good place to raise black kids...I remember back in the day when parents up north would send their kids south when they felt they were out of control or the neighborhood was too violent. For safety. Does that still happen? What would happen if all the black parents in Englewood just decided, enough is enough, and sent their kids out of state? even for the summer months?


Some parents still send their kids South, although I've got to tell you that too often the kids who wind up going South are the ones who are causing all of the problems. I think the black community has to do what Beverly did when Ryan Rusch was attacked. They have to come together and demand that their elected officials deliver the resources needed to rid their neighborhood of the criminal element.

I believe that it is about the stereotype that we have been given by other cultures and the ones that we have created ourselves.

To answer the question, YES. But the group themselves have to be the one to change the overall "identity".

For example, the young 14 year old that was shot three timeS (four shots were fired) by the CPD.

I applaud my people for standing up to the police, but it's not about what you do, it's how you do it. Because of the "groups identity" and the socioeconomic neighborhood, the police were already prepared for a not so peaceful rally or march as it appeared to be.

To change our "groups identity", we have to march peacefully to demonstrate our discontent with the actions or inactions of the CPD or they'll be able to justify every illegal or inaction taken because, "IT CAN BE EXPECTED OF THEM".

Being a white male I admit I don't feel shame when I hear of horrible crimes commited by other whites. I must admit though I do feel shame when I read the rantings of Jerry on the previous blog.
I believe the difference is, I feel some may view Jerry as a representative of white people. God help us, he is not. I do not think people judge whites because of serial killers. These people are evil freaks of nature and cannot be representative of anything.
I also do not see crimes commited by black people and think that is representative of black people. There are heartless killers in all societies. It is a part of the human race.
There are people in this world with no respect for themselves and therefore have no respect for others.
That fact is not a race issue.

I agree that group identity is a burden many times. Just this morning I saw a story on the news about a 14 year old black boy who was non-fatally shot by two police officers after pointing a bee bee gun at them.
The black people from the neighborhood where the incident occurred began to protest as if the police shot the boy deliberately.
This is what white people mean when they say that blacks stick together as a group even when we know we're wrong.
If I were a cop in that situation, I would have shot to kill. That boy's parents should thank the officers for not killing their son and agree to take parenting classes. I would never put myself in that situation because I was taught to respect/fear the police enough not to.
The police officers didn't miss his head and his heart by accident.

I feel sorry for you if the only white people you know are ones not appalled by serial killers.

Your arrogant, divisive ignorance is exceeded only by your disingenuousness, hypocrisy and shameless demagoguery.

I agree with you about wanting to distance your self, an I think most of us "identify" regardless of our differences, where we grow up, how we were reared, etc. I also agree that most white people don't "identify" with white criminals, as we seem to. Maybe its that we feel that it could have easily have been me, if my circumstances were different, or maybe because we all seem to be related to, grew up with or know someone who is involved in this behavior. However, I think the difference between "us" and white people are that they would demand that the criminal be caught and prosecuted. They don't appear to get caught up in the emotional issues of being white. Until we start to take a similar view, that we should protect the children and other innocent people in our community, an demand prosecution of those who bring fear and crime to our neighborhood, things will not change. Its time we cut off our unconditional support, even if its our own friends and family (we usually know who really is creating problems, from those who were wrongly named). We can't save everybody, an being black should'nt be the only yardstick we use in trying.

Mary, thank you for mentioning my name in your monologue at the top. I have finally reached the big time. Also, saying you doubt whites aren't disgusted by white serial killers is like me saying I know what blacks think on a given topic. So if I or any other whites do say we know what blacks are thinking, that would be okay, correct?


The key word here is doubt.

My condolences to Darien Shellie's family. That, Mary, was a true crime. An assault on a child whose parents were doing the right thing and protecting her from the streets and having her play in a basement in their own home. Where the hell are all the people marching for her, demanding that gangs and drug dealers get out of their neighborhoods?? I guess it's much easier to support a fourteen year old criminal than an innocent child!
As for that I find it hilarious that people are backing the parents of this fourteen year old boy. As a parent, I would of been more concerened of how my son got into that situation. If the boy was "such a good student, such a good boy," then why weren't the parents in shock when they found out what really happend. If that were my son, as soon as he recovers I would be asking him where he got the gun, where he learned that stealing from others was o.k., and if he learned his lesson by almost getting killed for doing something really stupid. I think the person that really deserves an apology is the person these kids tried to rob. How powerless and scared they must of felt when they were getting robbed by someone who appeared to have a gun. I also think that his community deserves an apology for him and others like him reaking havoc on their lives and giving them a bad reputation. But hey, I guess marching around the projects is an easy cop-out. "Please feel sorry for my fake-gun weilding theif of a son, who thinks it's cute to rob people and act tough in front of cops."-Please, no pity on that boy other than the fact he has crappy parents.

The real reason that most blacks are kind of sickened by the teenagers shooting is it was not a isolated incident(Robert Rush,Latonya Hagerty and a cast of hundreds)along with the Jon burge torture disclosure blacks have every right in the world to feel discriminated against by the police especially.Thats telling it like it is ,not blaming whites for all of our problems.Yeah the young man(14yrs.) made a crucial(AND MAYBE FATAL) mistake but to say blacks will lie for him is ludicrous ,we hate criminals just as much as whites do.Burge and his torture crew werent they white?they lied everyday how can you forget them?they coerced innocent people into admitting to crimes they didnt commit while the real criminals went scot free to prey on black and white citizens(good police work!)Welfare?,there are more non blacks on welfare then anybody.what does that have to do with this case anyway?Sometimes racists use any format to spout irants.Reality is something alot of people dont want to hear,they start responding with personal attacks.No he shoulnt have had a gun (BB)but the cops shouldnt have been abusing and killing innocent black citizens for years either ,we dont think all whites are like Jerry (read his posts)but his insipid dribble about the intelligience of serial killers made me sick.(if they are so smart how come they always get caught?)all races have good and bad why would people not realize its a personal decision to commit crimes ,not a racial thing.Blacks have just as much right to standup and express themselves as whites do,the race card has been played on them for 400 years,so to say blacks are playing the race card when they speak about racism shows people need to read about the history of racism in america.Like they say, its as American as apple pie.But what I really want to know, is this the legacy we want to leave our children?I cant speak for everyone but I know I sure don"t.

Sanjiv and Mary, Can you two stop playing the race blame game long enough to have a dialog. If you cannot think with an open mind and interpret what you read with an open mind, there is no purpose in having this blog other than a venue in which to vent your anger. Personally, I saw the Columbine killers and others as spoiled, screwed-up suburban white kids that had absentee parents that were more interested in themselves than in the growth of their children. The seventy's and eighty's generation is still to self-absorbed to be good parents. Now, I think that we can all agree that poor parenting knows no racial boundaries.

How come you never respond to black peoples responses that disagree with yours? They make valid points and you just ignore them, considered them Uncle Tom's or workin for the man. How come they can understand its time for the black community to step up and make the changes. its not whitey's fault theres garbage all over the street or front lawns havent been tended to in years, along with their houses. There are so many oppurtunities for blacks to go to college, get jobs, etc., its not whitey's fault they decide to sell drugs instead. Its time for people to accept responsibility for their own actions. How about we walked thru the 11th district, and I will bet you 9 out of 10 dudes will have some sort of illegal contraband on them. But then again you would say whitey the lawman planted the stuff.


Is there a question?

All I can say is we all talk about it but none of us have the answers. I know I don't and I admit it.....kingtrev made some great points in his rant. We really should applaud and recognize the great students, good fathers, etc. more than we do. But that isn't going to happen soon as long as we are so fixiated on celebrities, pro athletes, what have far as the degree of tragedy due to the violence goes, Mary wasn't it Evanston I believe years back that put up a sign letting everybody know that more young African-American males were killed in any one year by fellow African-Americans after I believe 1980 than the KKK and/or Jim Crow had killed in an entire century? Mary, what happened, did the PC-police kind of force them to take it down? What happened on that?


Sorry, I can't answer that. I was unaware there was a sign.

When those 2 wonderful young children were murdered in Englewood we all got upset. But where was everybody when the Englewood High School Board members previously were passing out awards to the Ganstra Disciples street-gang and sent one to Larry Hoover of all people? Where was the media then?

Wow.. Well maybe if media doesnt center that much that being a black thug is so COOL and thats the way ... maybe less crime is gonna go on.. you know. How many kids in high schools had gotten into some gang bullshit just because of what they've seen in the black box?... Majority thats right

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on August 8, 2006 3:28 PM.

Monsters Come in All Colors was the previous entry in this blog.

Mitchell on Cabrini-Green Shooting is the next entry in this blog.

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