Mitchell: Ex-Chicagoan spotlights America’s young gun victims

SHARE Mitchell: Ex-Chicagoan spotlights America’s young gun victims
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Gary Younge. | Internaz

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTThe date — Nov. 23, 2013 — will mean little to most of us.

But to the families of 10 young people in America —ranging from 9 to 19 years old — it will never be forgotten.

It’s the date author Gary Younge randomly chose to put a spotlight on America’s gun violence in his new book “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives.”

On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot to death, Younge notes.

OPINION

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTAnd on that November day in 2013, 10 children were killed. The young gunshot victims hailed from small towns like Grove City, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, to urban centers like Chicago, where Younge lived for four years before returning to London in 2015.

Five days before American families gathered to sit down together for Thanksgiving dinner, seven African Americans, two Hispanics and one white child were gunned down.

Through exhaustive research and interviews with relatives, friends, teachers and others who had an intimate knowledge of the victims, Younge not only paints a detailed portrait of each of them but also of the communities that have allowed these deaths to happen.

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In a recent column, Younge, who writes for The Nation and is an editor-at-large for the London-based Guardian newspaper, says such a book wouldn’t be possible elsewhere.

And he’s especially troubled by how often law enforcement labeled these shootings “gang-related.”

The majority of the fatal shootings that occurred on Nov. 23, 2013 defied the stereotypes that most of us hold about gun violence.

For instance, one youth was killed at a sleepover in a rural community. Another shooting was a case of mistaken identity.

In Chicago, Tyshon Anderson, who had been released from prison a few days earlier, was killed in a stairwell in South Chicago. In Houston, 16-year-old Edwin Rajo, whose female best friend was a gang member, was fatally shot when she pulled the trigger during a game.

She had gotten the gun after an altercation with a rival gang.

“If a shooting can be described as ‘gang-related,” then it can also be discounted as part of the ‘pathology’ of urban life, particularly for people of color,” Younge argued in a recent column.

“In reality, the main cause, pathologically speaking, is a legislative system that refuses to control the distribution of firearms, making America the only country in the world in which such a book would have been possible.”

The stories of the 10 lost lives he presents are rich in detail. The author uses each death to delve into the complex issues driving gun violence —segregation, poverty, the lack of mental health resources.

Younge is candid but compassionate. He avoids coming off looking as if he is exploiting these deaths.

This isn’t a book that harps on gun control. Nor does it sugarcoat the family dynamics that might have played a role in these deaths.

The story of Jaiden Dixon, who, at 9 years old, was the youngest to die that day, was particularly heartbreaking. The shooter was the estranged boyfriend of Jaiden’s mother and the father of Jaiden’s brother. He shot Jaiden in the head when the boy answered the doorbell.

Younge described the shooter as an “amok man” whose rampage also included shooting another estranged girlfriend. Police ended up killing the man in a Wal-Mart parking lot in a nearby town.

After each story, I had to exhale.

We can continue to argue about what the Second Amendment means. But Younge makes it difficult to justify putting politics over children’s lives.

Join me for a conversation with Gary Younge at the Chicago Humanities Festival Fallfest/16: Speed workshop at noon Sunday at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

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