Shaquise Buckner (via Facebook)
On June 23, less than two months before a bullet from a passing car would hit her in the head and kill her, Shaquise Buckner, 16, posted a selfie on Facebook, writing, “The Love Be So FAKE, But The Hate Be So REAL.”
At about 1 AM on Aug 16, she died on an Englewood street, a few blocks from home, the victim of one of more than a dozen rounds fired by likely gang members, the Chicago Tribune reports. “A body is a body but seeing people’s reaction is the worst,” a police officer told the paper. “This is as raw as emotion gets, right here.”
Her mother told CBS-2 Chicago that Shaquise wanted to study forensic science, having been a fan of CSI since she was 8. “She’s been on the honor roll since she’s been in high school every semester. She was supposed to start school on the 19th,” the station quoted Katrina Goodwin as saying.
Many of her Facebook friends have changed their cover or profile photos in remembrance. One liked a status just today saying, “Y’all Better Be Lucky Y’all Made It To See Another Day, Cause Living In Chicago Your Chances Get Shorter Day By Day.”
The current theory on news media about her death is that she was walking with a 20-year-old man who had been involved in one of the feuding gangs in Englewood. The car was found a few blocks away with bullet holes in the outside, but it was not reported whether those bullet holes were made before or after Shaquise’s death.
Documenting violence in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood
An episode of “This American Life” on PBS sent reporters into Harper High School, which is also in the Englewood neighborhood, for five months. The series led to a thoughtful essay from the University of Chicago that compares gang members to child soldiers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The mandatory gang involvement, bloody conflicts, and a new anarchy of gang structure revealed in the program show many similarities between the roles of child soldier and gang member, wrote Valerie Strattan Guerra in her March 2013 paper entitled, “Child Soldiers, Gang Members: Reconceptualizing Urban Violence in America.”
But, “while there are many congruencies between the roles of child soldier and gang member, the civil war in which these urban child soldiers are engaged contains an even grimmer prognosis.”
How grim is the prognosis and why is it grim? A few theories:
- In Sierra Leone, made famous for Americans in the movie Blood Diamond, a ceasefire after a few decades led to disarmament. This is not likely in Englewood, especially since violence seems to be escalating at this time.
- Many of the most highly educated Americans, who would be in a position to act to reduce gang violence in Englewood, appear to be blissfully unaware that there’s a problem with violence. The episode of “This American Life” was met with shock from the Public Television audience.
- African-American males experience racialized access to work, appalling incarceration rates, and the lack of access to basic needs like housing and healthcare, so the reintegration of African Americans into our education, training, and employment cultures isn’t likely, although such reintegration would be required to end the violence.
- Harper students said star athletes and students who achieved high grades were once considered “off limits” by gangs, but today, anyone and everyone is a target. Black adolescents, “born into civil-war-like communities with community violence at their doorsteps, do not have the luxury of walking away from the violence within the crucial two-year time frame.”
Ultimately, African-American children in Englewood can be seen as “trapped in a war zone during their prime developmental years, with no recollection of a peaceful community to which they can return,” Ms Strattan Guerra wrote. Because they have never known a peaceful world, imagining that they will be able to reintegrate into one seems impossible, but some people may have a stronger imagination than I do and bring a halt to this complex web of violence.
But then, there can be no ceasefire if people don’t even realize there’s a war going on. In Sierra Leone, the war was widely known, with factions and sides. In Englewood, where there is a generally easy access to guns and “anybody and everybody” is a potential target, there are no leaders, no sides, no factions. There is only anarchy.