EDITOR’S NOTE: WitnessLA is taking Monday off. We’ll be back to our regular reporting tomorrow.
This 2-part series takes a look at the violence affecting Harper High School in Chicago where, during the last school year, 29 current and recent Harper students were shot. Twenty-one of those kids were wounded. Eight of them eight died.
“Watching this,” said the program’s host, Ira Glass, “it’s hard not to think that if you grafted these facts on to another high school, in a wealthier place, maybe a suburb…In other places that would be national news, right? We would all know the name of that school.”
But most of us have never heard of Harper.. Nor do we hear much about a similar kind of everyday violence that goes on in certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles. When we do hear about a shooting, it’s often labeled “gang-related,” the unstated implication being that the victim must have somehow deserved it, that what goes around comes around—unless, of course, the victim is specifically designated “innocent.”
This story of Harper High School drills down past those careless assumptions.
“For everything we’ve all heard about children and gun violence,” says Glass, “there are basic things we don’t hear so much about. Like what it’s like to live in neighborhoods that have to cope with so much bloodshed. This is a school that knows this problem in a way that most of us around the country don’t.”
The administrators at Harper (who seem, by the way, like unusually caring and level-headed educators) gave TAL’s three reporters remarkable access for a full semester, five months. When violence struck—as it does with some regularity—the reporters recorded the staff as they jumped into action. They recorded private and painfully difficult meetings with families and students.
The result is one of the most affecting and accurate pieces of journalism I’ve run across in a very long time.
I’ll have more to say after Part 2. But for now, just listen.
Back tomorrow with our regularly scheduled programming.