What's behind the absence of national mourning when young victims of violence are African American? Ebony's Zerlina Maxwell seeks out the perspectives of two experts.
The public outcry for gun legislation after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was swift and forceful. Suddenly, there was a narrative shift in the media that something had to be done about gun violence in America. Vice President Joe Biden was tapped to head up a task force with real support from the public and the beltway. The reaction to Newtown, both politically and socially, was appropriate and yet also highlights the lack of response to the almost daily incidents of gun violence in inner city communities like Chicago. Simply put: we respond differently when White children are killed versus when Black children suffer the same fate.
"We are only a few generations away from Black people not having any value in our society beyond being chattel," Tom Burrell[,] author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority told EBONY.com. ["]We were judged to be three-fifths of a person and that was because of politics."
Burrell, of course, is referring to the infamous compromise where the Northern and Southern states agreed to count Black slaves as three-fifths of a person, allowing for Southern states to boost their populations for the purposes of tax apportionment and representation in Congress — which was recently, and controversially, heralded by Emory University President James Wagner as an example of the political system at [its] best.
When you think about the reactions to Newtown versus the reactions to the death of a Trayvon Martin or Hadiya Pendleton, "[You can] connect it back to the overall devaluation of Black bodies that Black people as a whole except in chattel slavery. They had no intrinsic value. We placed a monetary value [on Black people] based in labor and their ability to reproduce," Professor Blair L.M. Kelley, author of Right to Ride, told EBONY.com.
Read Zerlina Maxwell's entire piece at Ebony.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.