Yesterday I overheard someone talking about how they just couldn’t understand–and furthermore, didn’t believe–that the crime statistics in St. Louis (namely, that it is currently topping the charts as the most violent city in the U.S.) were real. The people to whom this gentleman was speaking averred. One woman offered tentatively, “Yeah, I guess it just depends on where you go.” Another guy said, “How do they really figure that stuff, anyway?”
Well, the figures are collected by municipal and state police reports, and then compared against things like square mileage and population density of a given locale. But I digress. I wanted to march over to their table with a St. Louis Post-Dispatch from the past evening, where, in the stretch of 3 hours, 4 children were shot. Three are dead, one (a little boy who comes to the pool where I teach swim lessons every Wednesday) is in critical condition after taking a fucking bullet to the neck. (The shooter? A 15-year-old boy, presumably from an adjoining housing project, who randomly started firing at a group of kids playing basketball.) One was a 3-year-old girl, unattended, who found a gun in her parents’ bedroom and shot herself in the head accidentally. Quotes from neighbors in the Post-Dispatch: “It’s more sad than anything,” says one woman. Really? It’s not outrageous, shocking, horrifying, and disgusting that in a U.S. city, in the 21st century, 3-year-olds shooting themselves is so apparently so commonplace that the 10 o’clock news reported it as an aftethought, behind the rest of the day’s heinous crimes?
The apathy that many appear to have regarding gun-related violence, assault and rape in this city is terrifying to me. White people see it as a problem only in the black neighborhoods (”it’s dog-eat-dog out there” is a phrase I’ve heard all too often applied to the North Side, for example) I refuse to let callouses grow; I refuse to stop being sickened by adolescents shooting pre-adolescents, by guns being so cheap and apparently easy to come by that in the span of one night, barely four miles apart from each incident, four different children were injured or killed by them.