Orland Park mall shooting: When does safety become a form of racism?

Orland Park mall shooting: When does safety become a form of racism?

Orland Park mall shooting: When does safety become a form of racism?

A teenager brought a gun into the Orland Park Mall and shot and killed a fellow student. But instead of talking about measure to protect innocent shoppers, some want to focus on racism. It’s time to consider metal detectors and restrictions on clothing that teenagers can wear and stop turning everything into “racism”

By Ray Hanania

Originally published in The Regional Newspaper, The Reporter Newspaper Jan. 30, 2019

January 21 happened to be the 3rd Monday of the month and was the day that the nation commemorated the life of the assassinated civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this year. It also happened to be the day of a mall shooting, when a 19-year-old from suburban University Park, Jakharr Williams, shot and killed an 18-year-old from Richton Park, Javon Britten.

Williams was on parole, released from prison after serving only one year for armed robbery. He approached Britten and his friends at the Orland Park Mall, which was packed with customers and teenagers because it was a school holiday. They all knew each other from Rich Central High School.

A bystander shopping at the mall with his family was injured in the shower of bullets fired by Williams at Britten and his friends. Britten was taken to Christ Hospital where he died.



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View of the Orland Park Mall. Photo courtesy Ray Hanania

View of the Orland Park Mall. Photo courtesy Ray Hanania

Mall shootings have become a frequent occurrence for armed killers. In January 2014, three people were killed in a mall in Columbia, Maryland. In Sept. 2016, five people were shot to death in a mall in Burlington, Washington. There were two separate shootings in October and December 2018 at a mall in Kansas City. There have been shootings in malls across the country, many resulting in death.

So what do we do? Just accept it? Should we turn this into a political debate over gun ownership the way Democrats and Republicans do every time someone kills someone else with a gun?

Some politicians in their irresponsible desperation to win higher office, power, contracts and clout, like Chicago mayoral contender Toni Preckwinkle, have used these kinds of gun violence incidents to empower their campaigns exploiting the racism that often surrounds these killings because many times, the shooters are Black.

Instead of discussing ways to confront the rising violence, Preckwinkle is using the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, an armed drugged up teenager with a long criminal history, who happened to be African Americans, as a means of harvesting the race-driven anger of African Americans voters.

Why malls? Because the suspects and the victims involved are often teenagers involved in or on the periphery of criminal lifestyles. Some are street gang members, but any teenager carrying a gun into a mall is a criminal regardless of their age or race.

If Preckwinkle won’t address the issue of safety, we have to do it ourselves.

I posted a survey on my Facebook page at OrlandParker.com, asking followers who live in Orland Park where the most recent mall killing occurred, what can be done. More than 280 people participated in the Facebook poll and 70 percent agreed that the mall needs to install metal detectors to detect concealed guns and other weapons. And, the Mall needs to implement new policies banning teenagers from wearing clothing styles that have become uniforms for many street gangs.

Thirty percent of those participating rejected both ideas, and several complained that banning clothing like hoodies that cover your heads and faces, or wearing “sagging pants,” trousers that are worn not at the waist but far below exposing your butts and your underwear.

The truth is that many street gangs have specific clothing style requirements, and street gang wannabes, kids who act tough thinking it’s cool also wear the gang-style attire.

Several commenting on the site asserted that banning clothing styles was a form of racism against Black people, against Hispanics, and against other “minorities.” It happened that Williams, the shooter, was African American. But Britten, the boy who died, was Black, too.

The truth is I rarely go to the Orland Park Mall anymore. It’s inundated with teenagers constantly using foul language. Many of the stores cater to the unruly teenagers because the teen desire for the “gangster look” is what sells among some young people.

Why not use metal detectors? They use them at sports stadiums to stop terrorism. Is street gang violence not a form of terrorism?

I can’t understand why people put their focus not on the safety of the public but instead are more concerned about the rights of the perpetrators, the street gangs, the unruly, the rough language teenagers

It’s upsetting that we put the priority on the wrong focus. I don’t care whether the kid with the gun is Black, Hispanic, Native American, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Jew, immigrant, or the stereotype used by minorities of a spoiled rich and privileged “White Kid” pretending to be bad.

I say, do what we have to do to nail them before they nail us.


Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.

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