Why does everyone know the name of Christopher Dorner, and so few the name of Hadiya Pendelton?
It can’t be because of looks: Dorner looked like a bowling ball (albeit a smiling one), Pendleton like an angel (also smiling).
It can’t be because of their actions: Dorner murdered people; Hadiya serenaded the President.
We’ve written about both of them, but even we are guilty of over-reporting the fat murderer and under-reporting the singing angel.
I stopped celebrating Black History Month many years ago.
What is there to celebrate? I am writing about this issue because of the misguided emphasis too many African-Americans are placing on the murder of Hadiya Pendleton. She was the 15-year-old sophomore shot to death a week after performing with her school band at the president’s inaugural. She was allegedly killed by an 18-year-old black gang member in a public park not far from President Barack Obama’s South Side Chicago home.
Black people, politicians in particular, avoid discussing the problems at the heart of Hadiya Pendleton’s death, the heavy toll of black-on-black violence and the moral decay that keeps us trapped.
I expect politicians to avoid the hard issues, but I worry when black residents play this cynical game. Damon Stewart, Hadiya Pendleton’s godfather, did so when he spoke at the girl’s funeral. “She is a representative not just of the people in Chicago,” he said. “She is a representative of people across this nation who have lost their lives.”
Stewart did not mention the real problem that begs to be addressed: Hadiya is representative of the high number of blacks killed and brutalized by other blacks each year in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 7,000 blacks are killed annually, 94 percent by other blacks. Along with being victims of black-on-black murders, African-Americans most often are the victims of violent personal crimes such as robbery and assault.
What is there to celebrate during February?
Of course, there’s plenty to celebrate about black history in America. Musicians, writers, athletes, scholars, clergy, actors, scientists. I have gotten tired of defining the black experience in America solely in terms of slavery and oppression (understandable as that might be). But why celebrate repression? When there’s so much creativity, invention, and initiative to cheer? Celebrate that “we have overcome”.
I fear we celebrate the repression to cover up or excuse the crime. Duke Ellington doesn’t make us feel better about black-on-black crime (very much including the holocaust of unborn black babies); I don’t know why Jim Crow should.