While the state of Connecticut, and the nation at large, remains in shock over the school shootings in Newtown, some members of the black community in New Haven are frustrated at the outpouring of national attention to this incident when urban areas of the United States suffer with serious gun violence continuously.
Some of these New Haven residents observed that, with hundreds of media outlets focused on President Obama’s visit to Connecticut on Sunday for an interfaith prayer service, this level of intense attention would not have been poured on a similar incident in an inner city area.
“We share in the grief with the families of the lives lost last week and we know all too well about gun violence, because African American families go through this all the time,” said Carroll E. Brown, president of the West Haven Black Coalition. “When doing an interfaith vigil we should never eliminate the black church, because our clergy can share their stories and experiences with others in these difficult times.”
State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield (D-New Haven) said, “I see race as an issue in places where many do not, but with regard to Sunday’s event I am not sure. What is important is how we act every day and I attended the New Haven vigil on Saturday and saw a diverse crowd all concerned about ‘our’ children.”
Holder-Winfield said, however, that “children are killed every day in this country and they are not seen as children, ‘our,’ or a reason to discuss trauma, mental health and guns.” He observed, “To have this conversation now when we are feeling pain, but to not have it when we are feeling better has no meaning.”
Gregory Webb, a resident of New Haven, asserted, “Where is the moral outrage and large media coverage when there are hundreds of murders of young black men in cities like Chicago? No one really cares about black kids as much as they care about white kids or white life. Where are our black clergy when we have these murders in New Haven? We have makeshift vigils all the time on our city streets,” he said.
With over 500 murders in Chicago this year, that city’s homicides outnumber the U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan.
Lynn Murphy, a social worker, questioned the urgency of politicians wanting gun control now, in the wake of the Newtown shootings. “I believe that the high alert in Connecticut should have started well before this incident in Newtown. Twenty killings in a matter of minutes ‘now’ gun laws change and people seek out medical evals?”
“We’ve had 51 killings in 21 months and why hasn’t New Haven been declared a ‘state of emergency’ then? It’s not about race, it’s not about ages; it’s about right and wrong and lives being taken by the hands of others. It’s not right either way,” Murphy said.