As I and some of my fellow anchors here on Allvoices have noted, President Barack Obama and the first lady are praying for the family of Hadiya Pendleton. By now, you are aware of the broad outlines of the tragic murder of this 15-year-old honor student, killed just days after performing at Obama’s inauguration. You are also aware, no doubt, that this young girl died less than a mile from the president’s own house here in Chicago.
However, you may not be aware that there is a petition circulating among Chicago’s black population asking Obama to attend her funeral. The White House is not aware of such a petition. At a recent briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney said he has heard of no such document. In any event, the White House has not shown any interest in attending the girl’s funeral.
This time, however, Chicago’s black community is doing more than just seething quietly at the president’s continued reticence to do much more than provide symbolic support for his most faithful supporters. Indeed, across black media in Chicago, in barber and beauty shops, at last Wednesday night’s prayer meetings in dozens of churches, there is a growing demand that Obama get directly involved in black issues—at least to the same extent he has involved himself in the larger, “all-encompassing” issues of America generally.
Specifically, the demand is that Obama be more responsive to the thousands—yes, thousands—of murders of black youth throughout the country, that he be at least as responsive as he has been to the mounting mass murders of mainly white people. Folks are saying that a good place to start would be right here, right now, in his own neighborhood, with Hadiya Pendelton.
Carney said that the first family’s “thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton.” Nothing more. No announcement heralding any decisive action on the part of the president.
On the other hand, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy promises to quickly find Hadiya’s killer. A reward for information leading to his capture has quickly grown to $25,000 and counting.
The “radical” white Catholic priest Rev. Michael Pfleger, of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church on the South Side, has put up $5,000 toward the reward. Speaking directly to the unknown murderer, he did so, he said, because it represents “a bounty out on the head of the killer, before you kill somebody else.”
Contradicting earlier reports, McCarthy said Wednesday that, “Every indication points to the fact that none of the individuals in the group were involved in any sort of criminal activity. These were good kids by everything that I learned. ... Wrong place at the wrong time.”
The neighborhood where Hadiya was shot does not usually experience much violence. After all, again, it is close to the president’s house.
But this killing, unlike almost any other, has raised awareness that lethal violence can and does happen anywhere, everywhere and to anybody within this city.
Again, the police are making all of their usual noises: “Anybody who thinks that this territory belongs to a gang is wrong,” McCarthy said. “If I have to put a policeman here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365, we’re going to make a point that this territory belongs to the community.”
But, again, it is Chicago’s black South and West sides that are literally under fire, not the racially mixed North, Northwest and Southeast sides. And black Chicago is asking some rather pointed questions:
If a 15-year-old white female honor student had been murdered near the president’s home after performing at his inauguration, wouldn't he attend her funeral?
Wouldn't he appear on television himself, rather than send a surrogate, to express his condolences and offer prayer?
Would it even be necessary to petition the president to come home and see about his own people, his extended Chicago family?
Wouldn't he already have high-level staffers here actually helping and comforting Hadiya's family and assisting with appropriate tributes to her personally?
Wouldn't those same staffers be deep into the logistics of the upcoming funeral itself, making sure of maximum media coverage?
Wouldn't he swoop into Chicago with all manner of plans and programs "targeted" and designed to turn kids away from guns, gangs, and drugs?
And if those plans and programs had no immediate impact, or proved to be of no avail, wouldn't he federalize the Illinois National Guard and finally put a stop to this madness?
These are questions black people in Chicago are asking. They—we—are his rock-solid base of support. As of this writing, though, no answer has been forthcoming.