We are all aware that this is an issue facing the black community, however, here is someone trying to do something about it.
Scott Charles walks briskly across a hospital lobby toward a group of high school students waiting to meet him. “Welcome,” he said, panning their faces, “I work with gunshot patients. How many of you know somebody who’s been shot?”
Hands spring up into the air from roughly half of the more than 20 students. Without flinching, Charles continues his introduction.
“What we’re going to do today is take you behind the scenes, pull back the curtain and let you see what we do in treating gunshot patients,” he said. It’s all part of the Cradle To Grave program that Charles helped create to reduce violence in what is supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love.
Inside Temple University Hospital’s trauma center, these high school students will relive the final minutes of life of a teenager who was killed by gun violence. Among America’s largest cities, Philadelphia’s homicide rate is the worst. Guns are the weapons of choice, with more than 80% of homicides committed with a firearm, according to the most recent police statistics. African-Americans make up 85% of the victims.
“Statistics suggest that as a young, black man, you have a greater chance of being shot and killed in Philadelphia than you would have if you were a soldier serving in the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq,” Charles said. “That’s absurd to me.”
Despite the daily gun violence plaguing American cities like Philadelphia, Chicago or New Orleans, it’s the mass shootings at a school or a theater or a public event — like the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora and Tucson — that trigger outrage and a serious, nationwide discussion on gun violence.
Daily, inner-city gun violence has become “white noise,” said Chuck Williams, founding director of Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence at Drexel University.
“At this point it’s like, ‘Oh, another six people got shot and killed over a week in a poor black community. Business as usual,’” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “So America says, if the urban communities don’t care enough about it, then why should we?”
Williams hopes that will change in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. “If this (Newtown) is not enough for all of us to come together and say that something needs to be done, I don’t know what is,” he said. “Our kids are dying and they’re leaving us way too soon, and we have the power to do something about that if we so choose.”