News and Commentary

MILLER: Lesson From Immigration Debate: Black Lives Don’t Matter

If you have been watching the news over the past week, you would have witnessed the veritable obsession with the fate of 2,000 immigrant children separated from their parents. Media coverage of the border exceeds that of a State of the Union Address. Pundits opine incessantly about the legalities and consequences of the policy. It’s as if the moral compass of the nation needs to be reset. And if there are any doubts, the media is relentless in reminding us that compassion is now the moral issue of the moment.

When it came his turn to interview Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz about his investigation into the FBI, African-American Congressman Elijah Cummings used his time to launch into a rant about the situation at the border. Ethical violations and partisan bias in the FBI were of far less consequence. As were this week’s Chicago shootings.

One thing you most likely would not have seen if you were watching the news is that as the temperature in Chicago rose, 84 people were senselessly shot. One of these was a 12-year-old boy shot in the stomach after a gunman fired into a crowd on the city’s West Side.

Another was a four-year-old girl, shot as she innocently sat with her parents on their front porch on the city’s South Side. Police say that someone in a dark sedan pulled up in front of the house and opened fire.

A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head as he was traveling on a city bus on his way home from one of the city’s elite high schools several miles away. A good kid striving to use his God-given talents takes a bullet in the head because he was in the wrong place — Chicago — at the wrong time.

Whatever you might think of the tragedy at the border, not one of these children has been injured, let alone killed. Their chain-link fence conditions, tugging at your heartstrings, is temporary. Some will end up in facilities that look like boarding schools, complete with computers, outdoor recreation, three meals plus two snacks a day, and schooling. The separation from their parents — as traumatic as it may be — is also temporary.

From 2011 to 2016, at least 174 children under the age of 17 have been killed in Chicago shootings and 1,665 children have been shot. The dead children’s separation from their parents is permanent — not temporary. The victims are overwhelmingly African-American.

It is a national disgrace that children are being injured and killed in America’s third largest city. So where are the camera crews, the bobbing heads, the pundits, the comely reporters in sleeveless dresses anguishing over the children, blurring the line between dispassionate reporting and compassion and advocacy? They aren’t there.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that we need gun legislation to stop this. Well, Supt. Johnson, I grew up in those streets and have a special affection for them. When I grew up, any 18-year-old could walk into Sears Roebuck on Homan Avenue and buy a semi-automatic rifle. There was no waiting period and no federal gun check. Yet, no kid was shooting other kids.

So, let’s stop talking about guns. Let’s talk about why there is no media frenzy, no national hysteria, no push for an executive order, to dealing with this problem.

If 84 white people were gunned down in Jefferson Park, Highland Park, or name your favorite white middle-class community, all hell would break loose, and the svelte young women, with tear-filled eyes, would be evoking our compassion while the monitor would be showing the picture of a once-smiling four-year-old white girl.

Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan would be competing for which party could come up with the best solution, and President Trump wouldn’t be able to sign executive orders fast enough.

But the reality is that black lives really don’t matter. What matters in America is the tear-jerking episode du jour that will help get you reelected. Next week, the Chicago Tribune’s tally will increase the number of children under 17 killed or wounded from gunfire, and the American people will collectively yawn.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow: @salomoncenter