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(14,180 posts)
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 11:46 AM Dec 2012

Bringing race and economic class into the Newtown discussion

Lost amidst all the sorrow we rightly feel for the many victims of the Newtown Massacre is the reality that innocent children have been the victims of random shootings on an almost weekly basis here in Los Angeles since I've lived here (1994 and thereafter). These children are predominantly black or Latino and lower-class and, aside from the brief mentions on local news broadcasts, have never occasioned the 'stop-the-presses' full-blown meltdown that the Newtown massacre seems to have engendered.

And yet no one on DU would say for one moment that the lives of those black and Latino children are one bit less precious than the lives of the child victims of the Newtown Massacre.

I'd like for DU to understand that this type of violence that makes victims of children has long been a staple of minority neighborhoods here. I live in a racially mixed neighborhood in Los Angeles (Ladera Heights) and I can tell you for a fact that the black and Latino children I've met here (some of whom live in my building) are just as cute, precious and precocious as the children who died at Newtown.

I mention this not to criticize DU, nor to besmirch the memories of the victims of the Newtown Massacre. Maybe I'm just asking myself where the media coverage and the outrage was when the children of South Central LA were being gunned down. I can't help escape the feeling that there are some racial and economic class biases at play here. And that the public outpourings of grief and outrage themselves reveal some deep societal dysfunctions.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Original post)



(14,180 posts)
4. Thanks. I had to absent myself from DU yesterday and tune out the coverage
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 12:11 PM
Dec 2012

after I read about the teacher who sacrificed herself. (I think her name was Victoria Soto or Sota?). After that, I just couldn't keep reading any more.

Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #4)



(14,180 posts)
13. Sorry if I seem obtuse, but what video is it that you think I should see? Just not
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 04:38 PM
Dec 2012

sure what or where I'm supposed to be looking.



(14,180 posts)
5. Thanks. I had to get off DU after I read the story about the
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 12:12 PM
Dec 2012

27-year old teacher who sacrificed herself. Just now getting tuned back in.


(14,524 posts)
6. I live up the coast from you and near a sizable..
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 12:18 PM
Dec 2012

prominently Mexican~American area.
The deaths of Latino and African~American children, any child here, do get a lot of attention.

The larger population of your area probably has more to do with these tragedies getting lost among the numbers.
I am so sorry that these murders seem unnoticed. California children are our precious future...all of them.




(114,904 posts)
8. If the exact same scenario took place in a poor inner city school
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 12:36 PM
Dec 2012

the reaction would, I hazard, be the same. It's not just that children were shot, it's how it happened and that they were all killed at once in a classroom.

But thanks for trying to make this an issue of race.


(1,095 posts)
9. "More than 400 homicides in Chicago in 2012"
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 12:42 PM
Dec 2012

I think we may have had five or six in my town in 2012. 400 is just unbelievable.


(35,118 posts)
10. Oranges and grapefruits.
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 02:46 PM
Dec 2012

Similar in some respects, not in others.

Children killed? Check.

10+ children killed in one incident? Not check.

Kids killed in school by intruders? Not check.

If 18 Latino or black kids were killed by an intruder in a school there'd be similar outrage. Then the difference in coverage might be racism. Might still be shock value.

As it is, kids are killed every day, disproportionately in minority (and poor) neighborhoods. There are real differences between this and Columbine, V-Tech, or Sandy Hook. They involve the killer's motives and responsibility, the status of the victims, the number of dead and killers, and location. They also involve differences in the killers.

A lot of killings are done in rage. But many are also done to defend turf, over drugs, and even to restore group honor (think gangs or other kinds of groups). We understand this. A lot of the killings of the truly innocent--young kids, those who were never in groups or involved in drugs--aren't intended by the killers. They're mistakes. The killers didn't intend to have those as their targets.

In a lot of minority neighborhoods we try to dehumanize the killers by removing responsibility. It's not the kids. It's society. It's social pressure. In saying that their guilt is shared by Society, we make them less than fully engaged, fully responsible humans. We so want to share their responsibility (or push it onto others) that we have trouble pushing it all back onto them when it's an innocent kid shot through the wall while sleeping. It means we can't demonize them and make them out to be the monsters that they are. We do this for political and social reasons. Then we're hoist on our own petard.

In many cases in minority neighborhoods the victims aren't truly innocent. They chose to play the game. They're involved in drugs. Freely associated with gangs or decided to defend "their" group or insult the "other" group. Perhaps they didn't know the risk. Perhaps they decided that they'd never have to suffer the risk. Fools. "My little baby was innocent" is often a mother's self-delusion.

Such murders are usually spread out over time and area. You don't get 15 people shot dead by one person. Size matters.

Location also matters. A school is supposed to be safe. We trust our schools to protect our kids. Sandy Hook was a betrayal of confidence. We don't expect our streets and parks to be that safe in a lot of neighborhoods. We don't even expect our houses to be all that safe in some neighborhoods. My neighborhood had an armed intrusion robbery a few years ago. Door kicked in, occupant shot, TV stolen. There's just a single lock on the door, which had a big glass window and was easily kicked in. People were shocked. It didn't happen here. In other neighborhoods the doors are metal and hard to kick in, windows barred, porches caged in. Had this happened in one of those neighborhoods, the immediate response from the neighbors would have been that the owner was foolish in not taking precautions against known risks.

In Sandy Hook, the school was to protect the kids. The kids had no responsibility or participation in being selected as victims. The kids were clearly the targets--no mistakes there. We feel no need to defend or justify the killer; indeed, most of us want to make him as much an outsider as possible, as bad as possible. The area had no record of violence like this, so there was no expectation that it could occur. It wasn't just a single kid or two kids, but a lot. And it wasn't a member of one group against members of another group, at least no group that makes sense to us.

My wife was horrified about this. Seldom is she horrified about reports of isolated violence against teens or adults. She didn't know where Newtown was or its ethnic composition. No pictures. She didn't know anything about its economic status. She just knew "lone killer killed 18 kids in a school for no obvious reason."



(14,180 posts)
12. While I really appreciate your taking the
Sun Dec 16, 2012, 04:27 PM
Dec 2012

time to annotate my post with some excellent comments, I must take issue with one sentiment within your reply:

In many cases in minority neighborhoods the victims aren't truly innocent (emphasis added). They chose to play the game. They're involved in drugs. Freely associated with gangs or decided to defend "their" group or insult the "other" group. Perhaps they didn't know the risk. Perhaps they decided that they'd never have to suffer the risk. Fools. "My little baby was innocent" is often a mother's self-delusion.

I cannot tell you the number of times that little kids in Los Angeles get shot through no fault of the kids. They're simply doing what kids of any race, whether it be white, black or purple, would be doing: playing, crossing the street, sitting at home. I refuse to accept that those minority children bear any responsibility whatsoever for what befalls them. And even blaming their parents to me smacks of cruelty and lack of human kindness (to quote MacBeth).

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