Urban gun violence is edging ever closer to President Barack Obama’s Chicago home.
Last week, 15-year-old Cornelius German was shot and killed in a backyard about four blocks from Obama’s house. Police said it’s likely that German’s death was gang-related. Days after his murder, no arrests have been made – and nobody’s talking.
A few days ago, a friend asked me this interesting question: “Would the Obamas ever move back to a neighborhood that is becoming more violent than when they moved away?”
It’s a good question.
I don’t know if President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama would move back to their same Chicago neighborhood after they leave the White House, but I do know the emotional issue of gun violence in America has touched President Obama in a way that perhaps no other American president has ever experienced. Obama is from Chicago, his home is located on the South Side of town, and the president knows that urban gun violence is rampant.
In fact, it’s a crisis.
German’s death comes about three months after the fatal shooting of another 15-year-old, Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down in a park about a mile from the Obama home in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. There’s an undeniable connection: Obama is black. The gunshot victims are black, too.
Moreover, Obama’s intense lobbying for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill is not working. Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a series of gun control bills that would have tightened background checks for buyers, loosened restrictions on carrying concealed weapons across state lines and banned both assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The president is doing the best he can: He is using his White House bully pulpit to push for gun control legislation but he needs help from Congress – Republican lawmakers who receive loads of cash for campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and have no intentions of biting the hand that feeds them.
Meanwhile, Obama is reaching out to young black men in his Chicago neighborhood and beyond. In February, Obama spoke to 16 black male students attending Hyde Park Academy High School who are part of an anti-youth violence program called “Becoming A Man” (B.A.M.) that teaches at-risk students about violence prevention, accountability, self-determination, positive anger expression and respect for women.
“This is very personal for him because he didn’t have a father,” Jarrett said of the president during a recent one-hour session at the White House with six African American journalists. “He was raised by a single mom so he knows the challenges.”