Lavontay White Jr., 2, was shot and killed while riding in the backseat of a car on Feb. 14, 2017, in the Lawndale neighborhood.
By Darlene Glanton
FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Good night, Lavontay.
Sleep peacefully, sweet child.
And we will do the same.
We will try not to think about the last seconds of your life, strapped in the back seat while more than a dozen gunshots rang out in your ear, at least one of them piercing your head.
How frightened you must have been. How alone you must have felt.
We are decent people. Of course, we feel sorry for you.
We saw only a glimpse of you in a Facebook video posted online. You were wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and peering out the window of a car, the way curious 2-year-olds do.
You seemed so much like the toddlers we know, the ones we tuck into bed at night and cuddle in the morning when they awake. If we closed our eyes, we could imagine you as our own child in that back seat, bleeding and gasping for your last breath.
But that would be too painful and much too cruel. We are lucky that we don’t have to.
Deep inside, you see, we believe that you are different from our own children, our grandchildren. We can point to a number of reasons that make it so.
Your 26-year-old uncle, who was also killed, was a known gang member, police say. If it’s anyone’s fault that you died, it’s his.
Why were they in that alley in the first place, recording themselves singing along to a rap song in the middle of the day? If your uncle and his pregnant girlfriend had been at work like the rest of us, this never would have happened.
Thank goodness, we have someone to blame.
With the music blasting and your uncle in the front seat singing the words to a familiar song, you must have felt as though you were on a great adventure.
But there was a target on your back. It has always been there.
From the day you were born, there were so many things going against you, Lavontay. You didn’t even know.
You lived in the North Lawndale community on the West Side, where more than 30 people have been killed in the last 12 months.
In your neighborhood, 39 percent of residents live in poverty, nearly twice the citywide average. Eighteen percent of your neighbors are out of work. And a third of the people who live around you never finished high school.
The odds were stacked against you, Lavontay. But still, you deserved a chance.
If you’d been born in Wilmette or Naperville or even Lincoln Park, perhaps you would still be alive.
Babies don’t get shot to death in those places, not white children, anyway. We would never stand for that.
Too bad, Lavontay. You were born black and poor and invisible.
Of course, we are troubled whenever a child is shot in Chicago. Just this weekend, we said a prayer for 11-year-old Takiya Holmes, who was struck in the head by a stray bullet while sitting in a car with her mother on the South Side. Takiya died Tuesday morning without ever regaining consciousness.
We are still praying for 12-year-old Kanari Gentry Bowers, who was shot in a separate incident Saturday on the South Side, 30 minutes before Takiya. Our hearts go out to her family, which is struggling to decide whether to remove Kanari from life support.
But our sorrow is fleeting. Our empathy doesn’t linger too long.
There have been so many shootings that we have grown numb. Before we can absorb the depth of one homicide, there is news of yet another.
Sometimes, we don’t bother to get bogged down in the details. We hear the numbers and move on.
We have convinced ourselves that all we can do is watch. This soothes our conscience and allows us to sleep peacefully at night.
So as we bid you farewell, Lavontay, we have only one request.
Leave quietly, child. And try not to awaken us as you go.