Answers need to be found to violence issue

Published 12:05 am Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hadiya Pendleton and Jessie Taylor likely would have had much in common if they had ever met.

Pendleton, 15, and Taylor, 16, were from the same generation and likely shared some common beliefs about the world. Their upbringing was anything but similar, though.

Pendleton grew up in Chicago; Taylor called Natchez home.

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Both of their lives were cut short at the hands of what were likely either gang members or those modeling a gang lifestyle.

Pendleton’s name rose to national prominence, briefly, after she was shot and killed on the streets of Chicago nearly two years ago. She was an innocent victim. Her alleged shooters mistook the group in which she was standing as a rival gang and simply shot into the crowd.

Her death hit home for many, including President Obama and his wife, Michelle. Pendleton’s death occurred just a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago house. So moved was she by the tragic death, Michelle attended the teen’s funeral. Pendleton was killed just a week after performing at President Obama’s second inauguration.

Taylor’s death, while equally as tragic, likely won’t make national headlines.

It’s unlikely any nationally known activists will come to protest Taylor’s death.

It’s not popular or politically influential to make a big deal out of the young man’s death because it doesn’t appear as if he was a model citizen.

The young man’s own social media posts indicate he wasn’t a choirboy. Images posted there feature him making obscene gestures at the camera, flashing what appear to be large amounts of cash and weapons. Another image seems to show him wearing an electronic leg bracelet indicating he was on some form of house arrest, presumably from a brush with the law.

All of that makes him far less easy to rally behind than Pendleton.

Sadly, more than likely he will become another statistic — unless we as a community decide to make his death a turning point in our community, doing that will be difficult.

Unlike Pendleton, who was doing nothing wrong when she died, police investigators suggest Taylor was likely breaking at least two laws when he was gunned down.

Police believe Taylor was attempting to purchase synthetic marijuana — illegal in Mississippi — when his would-be dealers decided to rob him. Further, he had in his possession, police say, a loaded pistol — illegal for a 16 year-old to possess as well.

None of that ultimately matters, though. That Taylor and his assailants are black shouldn’t matter. That he appears to have been breaking the law when he was killed shouldn’t matter.

A few evil folks in our community will likely suggest, “He had it coming” or that he was “A thug living a thug lifestyle.”

But this is a child we’re talking about here. Sure, he was an armed and dangerous child, but still a child.

How many of us at the ripe old age of 16 made clear, logical, well reasoned decisions about life?

Figuring out how to change the mentality of a lifestyle in which guns are commonplace and death is just something that happens will be difficult.

But to simply discount it as “inevitable” is not civil, Christian or in any way helpful to our society.

Should parents be held accountable when their children are found in possession of weapons?

Should local police begin the controversial practice of “stop and frisk” that New York used to curb their own city’s violence?

The answers aren’t easy, but that doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked.

If our community gives up on trying, the problem will become much, much worse.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or