Even with Chicago’s violent 2017 continuing its dishearteningly deadly start, the city was recently dealt a new level of tragedy to dwell on. Only halfway through February there have been at least 437 shootings that have left more than 80 dead, and over the course of just two days this past week three children were killed by gunfire as well.
Unfortunately in Chicago, shootings have become routine. And even the deaths of children are not uncommon; the Chicago Tribune has tracked dozens of youth slayings over the past years, including seven so far in 2017. But this last week was something different. Hearing news of three child deaths over only two days (brought on by shootings over the weekend and early in the week) is tough. Lavontay White Jr., 2, Takiya Holmes, 11, and Kanari Gentry-Bowers, 12, became victims of the random and rampant shootings that have been hitting Chicago so hard.
Last Saturday night, Holmes was sitting in a van with her younger brother, mother, and aunt when a gang member across the street opened fire on rivals he spotted near the family’s car. He missed his targets and hit Takiya’s head. She would later die after being taken off of life support Tuesday morning.
White, only a toddler, was shot along with a 26-year-old man and a pregnant 20-year-old woman on Tuesday afternoon. White and the man died. The incident was captured on a Facebook Live broadcast.
Gentry-Bowers was playing basketball at her school Saturday night when a bullet hit her in the head. Surrounded by family, well-wishes from her school and classmates, and a Valentine from a boy she liked, she died Wednesday after days on life support.
Every time children are shot, the tragedies spark sadness, outrage, confusion, and sentiments that something has to change. Then hundreds more die, including kids, and Chicago still seems helpless to stop it.
The timeline of the shootings of White, Holmes, and Gentry-Bowers raised the profile of the incidents even more. “Third child dies from a shooting in Chicago in just two days” is a strikingly sad statement, and it brought out reactions from the Chicago community from the victims’ families to city officials. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson critiqued legislators for their slow and ineffective approach to stopping city violence:
“How many children do we need to lose before the promises made by certain legislators are kept? How many?” he said, according to the Tribune, adding the now-familiar “enough is enough.” It has been enough, yet people keep dying.
An editorial ran in the Tribune in the wake of the three kids’ slayings, suggesting that Chicago’s homicide problem has no threshold at which people will truly endeavor to stop the deadly issue. So far, that has held true. This past year has demonstrated it clearly.
“…Chicago has no tipping point. That became obvious hundreds and hundreds of names ago. Nobody cares. At least not really. Not enough to actually push and fight for change,” reporter Rex Huppke said. He also wrote that “[Chicago]’s murder factory churns out names, nothing else… And they mean nothing.”
Lavontay White Jr., Takiya Holmes, and Kanari Gentry-Bowers are another three names. According to the Tribune’s homicide tracking, 10 more people have been killed in Chicago since Wednesday. Their names will likely not become as high profile as the children’s, and after 10 more people get shot this week their names will probably be forgotten by all but family and friends.
Huppke offered a solution to the violence: caring. Caring by police, family, communities, lawmakers, teachers, and more. Solving the city’s murder problem will take caring across the board. It will be expensive. If successful, it will result in deep change.
Yet most likely, it won’t happen. People won’t care across the board. The city will not fix its broken schools, the police won’t become more respected and effective overnight, and the legislation needed to crack down on guns and criminals won’t be enacted. Support structures to keep youth out of harm’s way, away from gangs, and set up for a successful life, won’t be funded. It’s sad but realistic and unless the majority of the city starts caring, really caring and acting on it, the crime will likely continue and the names will keep adding up and be forgotten.