Chicago: In the Wake of the Killing of Hadiya Pendleton Obama Offers “a Few Saved Lives, a Few Jobs”

February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

As everyone in Chicago knows—and many across the country have heard—Hadiya Pendleton was a vivacious student who was tragically shot to death at a park near her high school on the south side of Chicago a week after marching in the inaugural parade in Washington D.C.   Michelle Obama attended her funeral and President Obama flew into town to speak at a different high school, one with “at risk kids.” 

In his speech Obama did NOT SAY that the fact that there is absolutely no future for these “at risk” youth is intolerable and everything conceivable should be done to immediately change the situation that is stealing their dreams and their lives.  Obama did NOT SAY anything about the high school students killed after school by Chicago police, students like Dakota Bright last November.

In fact what Obama DID SAY was “We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our community. We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged.”

A few saved lives, a few jobs ... This was a stunning admission that this system does not and can not have any different future for these youth in the face of a situation where there is 94% unemployment of teens in Chicago households that make less than $40,000 /year. (Source: Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University in Boston).  Other studies put the unemployment rate among Black teens between 45% and 80% in Chicago.   By any measure the situation is dire and worsening.

And Obama’s emphasis in his speech on personal transformation and responsibility and the idea that if these youth work hard and make the right choices then they can be anything they want to be is a cruel and vicious lie.  Obama is doing great harm to these Black children while doing a great service to this capitalist system in trying to keep those on the bottom of society quiet while their lives and dreams are destroyed every day.

The real answer this system has to this crisis is more police and the police’s intensified reign of terror on the street.  This was immediately demonstrated two days after Obama spoke when police shot and critically injured a 23-year-old on the west side of Chicago on Saturday at noon.  Police claim he was fleeing a location where drugs were being sold and they admit he didn’t have a gun.  

The Chicago Sun Times reported, “Cops place bull's-eye on suspected gang of Hadiya's alleged killers.”  Chicago police officials vowed to target every member of this gang as part of a strategy that they called “group accountability.” This means repeated arrests of anyone suspected of being associated with a particular gang for anything that the police can frame them for—from driving with a cell phone to more serious charges and this can be the excuse to gun them down.   

Police had a massive reward to find a suspect in Hadiya’s murder.  According to news accounts, the first tip came from someone in jail which led to a parolee on whom the authorities used their “leverage” to throw him back in prison to coerce him to “give up” the two young men who have been charged with murder. 

The ironies in the whole situation are many.  The sister of one of the accused men attended Obama’s speech at her high school.  The young man accused graduated from the same high school as Hadiya and his teachers describe him as smart and charming.  His stepfather says he was not in a gang, that he worked at Macy’s and was soon to leave for basic training in the Air Force (where if he killed someone in Pakistan or Afghanistan he would have been praised by Obama!).

The police and the authorities rushed to arrest these youth and then convict them in the media in the wake of Hadiya’s death.

Contrast this with how police who shoot people are treated by the authorities.  In the case of Chicago police officer Sierra who was filmed on a police car videocam actually executing Flint Farmer as he lay face down on the ground, deliberately firing 3 shots into Farmer.  And what happened to Sierra?  He was rewarded with a $75K/year job at the city’s 311 call center.  The City of Chicago was even forced to pay Farmer’s estate over 4 million dollars and yet still claims Farmer’s murder was justifiable homicide.  There have been three major articles in the Chicago Tribune exposing Farmer’s murder and Sierra’s earlier killing of Darius Pinex and the shooting of a teenager all within the space of a few months and STILL not even a slap on the wrist!

All of this is why it has resonated with people when revolutionaries have taken out two quotes on flyers and nine-foot high cardboard displays. These quotes were also passed out at the high school before Obama spoke there and in the wake of Obama’s visit. And they were passed out at a Lupe Fiasco appearance and went directly to the scene of the police shooting of a young man on the west side within an hour after it happened. 

This quote from the "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. A Message, And a Call, From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" captures the situation:

For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!

The other, a quote from BAsics, gets at how the very factors that especially young people are responding to today and the fact is that these youth really have nothing to lose under this system.  These forces that drive them to get into all kinds of harmful shit are the very same driving forces that could impel them in a whole other direction if they could be ruptured with that "gangsta" outlook and if their anger, alienation, and rebelliousness could instead be channeled at the source of the problem, and tempered and transformed with revolutionary science and a morality of liberation.   This is a pathway to transforming the urgent necessity that we face to build a movement for revolution:

People say: “You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?”  Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle.  They weren’t always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don’t have to be into all that in the future.  Ask yourself; how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly “irredeemable monsters” in a few years?  It’s because of the system, and what it does to people—not because of “unchanging and unchangeable human nature.”

BAsics 3:17

As the revolutionaries go out into the neighborhoods and schools, they are actively promoting the film of a major speech by Bob Avakian: BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! This is pivotal to building the movement for revolution. 


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