Mitchell: Tyshawn Lee's murder is everyone's problem

SHARE Mitchell: Tyshawn Lee's murder is everyone's problem

The casket leaving the funeral for Tyshawn Lee at St. Sabina Church on Tuesday. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

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Where you from? The taxi cab driver asked with a Caribbean accent.

“Chicago,” I said cheerfully as we pulled off.

“Isn’t it terrible what happened to that boy,” he said, shaking his head. “Terrible. I don’t know what go on there.”

I thought he was talking about Antonio Smith Jr. In 2014, reputed gang members killed the 9-year-old because they thought he was warning rival gang members.

But the driver was referring to 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee. Gang members allegedly killed the boy because of his father’s involvement in a gang war, according to police.

I was thousands of miles from home and the horror of this child’s death was international news.

Because of this latest child murder, there’s no escaping the new reality.

Chicago has become a place where the lives of too many children have no value in the eyes of too many adults.


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There’s no doubt relatives, friends, neighbors, and even strangers who had never met Tyshawn were outraged and saddened by his death.

How could they not be?

A grown man allegedly lured this 9-year-old boy into an alley and shot him multiple times as retribution.

The heinousness of the crime surpasses the carnage left by mobsters and gangsters from past generations.

And while those criminals committed terrible acts against each other, they didn’t make the sons pay for the sins of the fathers.

Tyshawn was shot to death in an alley like an animal.

Yet as a city, we are not completely heartbroken.

We are not in a terrible uproar.

We are not in utter anguish.

Our favorite sports teams took to the field; we kept the cheers going; we went about our daily routines, most of us thanking God the misery that visited this family and this neighborhood passed over ours.

Meanwhile, a dark cloud hangs over the entire city.

On Tuesday, Tyshawn’s family buried him in a shiny red casket with silver handles. After the service, his mother, dressed in white, softly stroked the outside of the casket as pallbearers wheeled it down the church aisle.

Once again, a child has become the symbol of the cost of the city’s ills.

But as horrible as this tragedy is, it is also an opportunity to work toward creating a different reality in these troubled neighborhoods.

Because while we may choose to ignore the toll extracted by family dysfunction, substance abuse, poverty, lax gun laws, poor education and illegal drug dealing, we can’t ignore what it means for a child to be murdered on the street.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for police to track down the four suspects allegedly responsible for Antonio Smith’s death. All of the suspects were under 21 years old and were members of a gang faction that was feuding with rivals.

If convicted, these young men will be locked up until they are stooped and gray.

Given the heat Antonio’s death generated on the street, it makes no sense that someone would murder another child because of a gang feud except that that person is empowered by evil.

Every Chicagoan ought to be sickened by what happened to Tyshawn.

Because even if you have convinced yourself that the shootings have nothing to do with you, it is hard to be proud of a city where children are gunned down in the street.

Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST

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