Showing posts with label Sociology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sociology. Show all posts

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,993 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
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Another Day in the Death of America
by Gary Younge
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.

This powerful and moving work puts a human face—a child’s face—on the “collateral damage” of gun deaths across the country. This is not a book about gun control, but about what happens in a country where it does not exist. What emerges in these pages is a searing and urgent portrait of youth, family, and firearms in America today.

“Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened, "writes Leovy in Ghettoside. "Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.”

“But they can explain a great deal. The circumstances into which people are born and the range of opportunities to which they are exposed shape both the choices available to them and the process by which they make those choices even if they, ultimately, still make the choice. I have yet to meet anyone who denies that individuals have free will. But I also have yet to meet anyone who makes a convincing argument that circumstances don’t shape what you can do with that will.”


Heartbreaking book of an ordinary day in America where 10 young men are killed by guns...

Gary Younge picked November 23, 2013 as the random day to track and report on the children and teens in America who were killed by gunfire. On this day the victims numbered ten, in comparison to an average day of seven. The victims were all male, from across the United States and between the ages of 9 and 19. The circumstances varied from opening the door to an angry father to playing with a gun with a friend. Each of the TEN stories was powerful and sad.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives was a 2016 GRCA finalist in the non-fiction category. It is a disturbing, but riveting read that invokes questions of how and why we accept these tragic deaths of children as ordinary instead of taking immediate action to stop the killing.

“So long as you have a society with a lot of guns- and America has more guns per capita than any other county in the world- children will be at risk of being shot. The questions are how much risk, and what, if anything, is being done to minimize it? If one thinks of various ways in which commonplace items, from car seats to medicine bottle tops, have been childproofed, it's clear that society's general desire has been to eliminate as many potential dangers from children as possible, even when the number of those who might be harmed is relatively small. If one child's death is preventable, then the proper question isn't "Why should we do this" but rather "Why shouldn't we?" It would be strange for that principle to apple to everything but guns.”
Having finished this book I am left with the overwhelming impression that it was a book that needed to be written. Author Gary Younge is a journalist who spent many years living in the States. Although living in America, he is British and as a black man he was very aware of both the differences and similarities between cultures. One of the most obvious differences is the number of guns that are readily available in the States. I don’t think most Americans understand how shocked us Brits are to visit a supermarket in America and find guns openly on sale. Younge himself was shocked, after snow thawed in the spring and a gun was found near his house and another near his children’s school.

Every day in America, on average, ten children are killed by guns. That is not including suicides, just murders. In fact, gunshot fatalities are so common that they are often not reported. The murder of a child does not even merit a mention on the news, or a paragraph in a newspaper – especially if the child in question is poor or black. The author’s idea was a simple one and incredibly moving. He took an ‘average’ day – Saturday 23rd November, 2013. On this day, ten children were killed (possibly more in fact, but these are those that he could find). The youngest was nine years old and the eldest nineteen. You may say that nineteen is not a child. My eldest child is nineteen and he is currently at university – possibly straddling the difficult age between childhood and adulthood. One of the teenagers killed, eighteen year old Gustin Hinnant, listed his favourite movies as, “Toy Story,” and “Happy Feet.” Despite any bravado or teenage posturing, these are children…

In this book, Younge tells the stories of these children. As also befits the ‘average’ statistics around such shootings, all of these were boys. One was white, two Hispanic and seven were black. They were all from poor backgrounds, meaning that most lived the areas that experience the most crime. These boys were all individuals though and so were their stories and their deaths. These shootings range from gang related killings to an unsupervised boy shooting his friend in a town where hunting seems to be the main preoccupation and loaded weapons available and accessible.

Much of this book is depressing, dispiriting and tragic. Along with the boys stories, Younge weaves the history of gun related crimes into the text. There is the terrible statistic that between 20 and 30 percent of Chicago children in public schools have witnessed a shooting, the fact that poorer parents often do shift work and thus cannot both be at home and earning a living – leaving their children in areas they know are unsafe and, perhaps most depressing, is the fact that parents of these children are often blamed by both the media and their own community. Alongside the fact that the community is unable to face the fact that society has a role in these horrifying statistics, there is the accompanying fact that most of those interviewed seemed to accept without question the presence of guns in their country. Those who own guns can claim that it is personal responsibility and teaching safety that is important, but until America really faces the facts that they have more gun deaths than any country that is not at war, and does something about it, then nothing will change. The names below represent ten of those unlived lives that represent the sad statistics. Ten children killed by guns – every day, including today.

Jaiden Dixon
Kenneth Mills-Tucker
Stanley Taylor
Pedro Cortez
Tyler Dunn
Edwin Rajo
Samuel Brightmon
Tyshon Anderson
Gary Anderson
Gustin Hinnant

This was a very well written, intelligent and thoughtful read. I was very impressed by Gary Younge as both an author and a journalist and I certainly want to explore more of his work.
Another Day in the Death of America is an interesting and stark look at the effects of gun violence in the United States. 
Gary Young is a UK born journalist who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He decided to take a random day in 2013 and look at all of the deaths of children caused by guns that day. His definition of children is fairly expansive, but he looks in some detail at the deaths of 10 children, ranging in age from 7 years old to 19 years -- which is close to the daily average of 7 deaths. Each chapter is about one child and the circumstances of his death -- they are all boys. Some deaths are accidents and some are intentional. Most kids are black or Hispanic, and live in difficult economic and family circumstances -- but not all of them. And most of them have close ties with their mothers, siblings, friends and teachers who give a human face to what have often been short lived and brief news stories. Young's premise is that while these deaths are often tied the challenging circumstances in which each child lives, the frequency and commonality of these deaths is due to the prevalence of guns in the US and the lack of gun control. Interspersed amongst the narratives about each child, Younge presents statistics, historical information and analysis in support of his argument. Coming from Canada where guns are far less common and much more tightly controlled, it wasn't hard for Younge to convince me. But I still found this an interesting, sad and scary read -- and from the sidelines it strikes me as a very timely topic for the US and an original approach to tackling it.
The idea of this book is simple – take a random day (Saturday, 23 November 2013) and write an account of all the kids who were shot and killed in that 24 hour period in the USA. There were ten. (Note – suicides are omitted because they are never reported. So the figure is probably higher than ten.)

The author Gary Younge (a black British journalist) quickly makes clear : this is not a book about the need for gun control, although to a British reader, it may appear that it is. Gary Younge is writing about the whole difficult Gordian knot of intractable problems which has led the USA into the horrendous levels of violence it now suffers.

We do have to mention some comparative figures.

In the USA (population 323 million) in 2014 there were 15, 872 homicides, of which 11,008 were homicide by firearm

In the UK which has a population of 65 million there were 573 homicides in 2016 in total of which 51 were by firearms

There are cities in America which have more murders than the whole of the UK. Such as Chicago (population around 3 million) – 762 in 2016.


Here are the basic details of the cases in this book.

Jaiden Dixon. Grove City, Ohio. Aged 9. Killed by his mother’s deranged ex-boyfriend.
Moral of this story : sometimes there’s nothing you can do.

Kenneth Mills-Tucker, Indianapolis. Aged 19. Shot on the street, no one arrested, no motive discovered.
Moral of this story : don’t walk around at night.

Stanley Taylor, Charlotte NC. Aged 17. Shot by a 27 year old guy at a gas station. No motive discovered. No arrest.
Moral of this story : Don’t drive a car.

Pedro Cortez, San Jose, California. Aged 18. Drive by gang murder. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t be in a gang or know anyone in a gang or know anyone who’s in a gang which you’re not aware of.

Tyler Dunn, Marlette, Michegan. Aged 11. Accidentally shot by best friend aged 12.
Moral of this story : don’t have a friend who lives in a house full of unlocked loaded guns.

Edwin Rajo, Houston. Aged 16. Accidentally shot by his female best friend.
Moral of this story : if you’re going to buy a gun for self-protection against all the gangbangers in the neighbourhood, learn how to use it.

Samuel Brightmon, Dallas. Aged 16. Random street shooting. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : if you’re young and black, don’t leave the house.

Tyshon Anderson, Chicago. Aged 18. Gang murder. No arrest made.
Moral of this story : this was the only acknowledged gangbanger of the ten victims. So, I guess, the moral is you reap what you sow. But the other nine victims never reaped what they sowed. So that moral is just not true.

Gary Anderson, Newark NJ. Aged 18. Shot in a drive-by, everyone agreed it was mistaken identity. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t look like anyone else.

Gustin Hinnant, Goldsboro NC. Aged 18. Everyone agrees, shot by accident. They were aiming at the other guy in the car. No arrest.
Moral of this story : don’t leave the house, don’t have any friends


This book is a companion piece to another wrenching piece of journalism, Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, which I also recommend. Both books cover the same ground in different ways. But heck, there are so many others too. This is not uncharted territory. Great tv shows like Homicide and The Wire have charted all this stuff already. But it seems every time we get reminded of it, we then forget.

What Gary Younge does is lament the invisibility of these kids’ deaths (they barely register in the media, after 24 hours they’re gone and forgotten) and link them to various immense trends in American society. He interviews the families where he can (some refuse to speak); he transcribes 911 calls; he creates portraits of these kids as far as he’s able. As you can see from the summary, in seven of the ten cases no murderer was ever discovered, no arrests were made.

This book takes a snapshot of a society in which these deaths are uniquely possible and that has a political culture apparently uniquely incapable of creating a world in which they might be prevented

We get pages on the collapse of manufacturing, the implosion of the black family, the failure of politics, the corrosive segregation of the American city –He throws out various insights. Regarding the famous school/workplace/mass shootings, he remarks

They disturb America’s self-image and provoke its conscience in a way that the daily torrent of gun deaths does not

And he ploughs on to the next sad case. Okay, you may be thinking this is not a very cheerful or hopeful book. You’d be right. “Researching this book has made me want to scream” he says in the Afterword. That may be your reaction too.
5★ (Read and reviewed February 18, 2017)

I considered a lower rating, but Younge makes the subject so compelling and the people so familiar, I don't know how he could have done it any better.

WARNING: if you have lost someone through sudden violence, especially a child, this book, and possibly my review, is going to be even more disturbing than it is for someone like me, who has lived a pretty sheltered life. And he lets us into these families’ lives so well, that I’m still afraid for them all.

Author Gary Younge is in a unique position to look at the American way of life and death, and I think he’s done an admirable job.

“I was raised black and poor (though in England, where race and class interact differently), and I have two black American children.”

He says when he moved to Chicago, his son’s day care centre had a meeting on traffic awareness. The teacher recommended that parents travel the same route to school so that kids might have some sense of where they are. Then the teacher explained the routes the centre uses to take kids on outings.

“One of the parents asked whether they would continue to pass the site by the subway where there had been a recent shoot-out. The teacher smiled. ‘I knew that would come up,’ he sighed. ‘It’s a good point, and we are really going to have to get on top of it. We must talk to the children about how to handle situations like that, because the big problem in those moments is that they panic.’

I thought this was odd. Panic in the presence of gunfire seems a perfectly rational response, whether you’re four or forty-four. The problem, it seemed to me, wasn’t the panic but the shooting.”

Un-bloody-believable! He says in England, sometimes the culture feels more violent (fights and such) but less deadly.

He mentions that the first child who died on Saturday, November 23, 2013, was actually shot on November 22, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy. But he said he just chose a Saturday, because “it’s over the weekend, when school is out and parties are on, that the young are most likely to be shot.”

He also explains, “it is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control.”

He pulls no punches for his readers, rather he tells these stories with great care and concern and with affection for some of the victims and families he came to know. They are the ones left with the empty chair at the table, the bedroom with clothes strewn around, posters on the wall. It’s impossible not to share the sudden, violent and unexpected loss of their kids.

I'll mention only a couple of stories, but there is a chapter devoted to each child and their family. How it happened that the kid was where they were, whether someone should have known better, or whether it could have been prevented. One little boy was shot point-blank when he opened the door at breakfast time to his mother’s violent, crazy ex who was the father of one of his older brothers.

The father’s own son remembered his dad had said he might opt for “suicide by cop” (to escape his troubles) but never thought to find out what that meant. The father was, indeed, gunned down, but that didn’t save the little boy.

I grew up in America a long time ago and was never aware of guns, except for hunting. It was more like the movie “Grease” where parents worried about their kid joining a gang and getting beaten up or maybe stabbed with a switchblade (flick knife). How times change.

The father of one victim said “Back in the day, when we grew up, you get in a fight, somebody might jump you, you know, but the next day you speak to the person and you keep going. But now you get in an argument with somebody, they come back and shoot you.”

These days:
“Many young people in certain areas are gang members in the same way that Soviet citizens were members of the Communist Party . . . – there was precious little choice.”

California is divided between north and south at Bakersfield: Noreños and Sureños, with special dot tattoos. They wear blue or red (nothing political!), and one grandmother said she always took away her grandson’s red shirts, in case it made him a target. It didn’t save him.

I’ve lived in Australia since the late 60s, and nobody really ever talked about or heard much about guns, except for farmers and hunters and The Mob (or whatever we called them then), until the Port Arthur Massacre led to gun law changes (see below).

“Five years after his retirement from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by Nixon, insisted that the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word 'fraud' – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Younge explains, the New York Times did some investigations in 2013 and reported:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced findings and reports on how to limit gun deaths in the same way that they produce reports on healthy eating and how to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. They found, among other things, that the presence of guns in the home increased the likelihood of death rather than reduced it. The National Rifle Association was not pleased with this particular conclusion or the research in general.

Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,’ Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, told The New York Times. ‘Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.’ So the NRA used their immense lobbying power to effectively put a stop to the government’s finding out how to make people safer around guns.”

No. They were promoting the idea that one of the biggest risks to the health of children in America was the lack of safety around guns. One kid in this book came home from school to show demonstrate the gun safety lesson they'd had. He too the gun out of the cupboard, loaded it, went to put it back and it discharged, killing his friend. He understood the safety lesson . . . but not well enough to have a gun where he could get it.

Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream . . . I’ve wanted to scream at journalists and police to treat these deaths as though the lives mattered.

But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for its youth and children—for my children—but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.”

Our family sold back the only newly illegal repeating shotgun from our farm and kept the rifles and shotguns that were still okay. When we quit farming, we sold the guns, lock, stock and barrel to another farmer, along with the heavy steel cabinet that bolts to the floor.
"Brilliantly reported, quietly indignant, and utterly gripping. A book to be read through tears."-NAOMI KLEIN

I don't know who Naomi Klein is, but she is spot on with that quote. Gary Younge, an accomplished journalist, a Briton, and a black man, searches for understanding of these daily senseless killings and their anonymous victims. Like Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, this book haunts me with it's powerful message about a heartbreaking trend in the America that I don't see or even hear about. This book is so important. I'd like to quote the entire Afterward here but instead I will encourage everyone to read this book. Something has to give. 5 stars

    Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream. But more than its making me want to scream at anyone in particular, it has mostly made me want to just howl at the moon. A long, doleful, piercing cry for a wealthy country that could and should do better for the youth and children – for my children – but that appears to have settled, legislatively at least, on a pain threshold that is morally unacceptable.
    I want to bay toward the heavens, because while kids like those featured in this book keep dying, the political class refuses to do not only everything in its power but anything at all to minimize the risks for the kids who will be shot dead today or tomorrow.