Card playing is still apparent

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 21, 2003

It's difficult to read about death. Or to talk about it.

So don't worry about going any further if this is a topic you'd rather not start your weekend with.

Many times, death leaves lingering questions, whether it involves a close friend or a relative. Maybe it involves someone you didn't know.

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That's the case here.

Chicago police and fire officials have given us a glimpse to how 21 people were killed when they tried to leave a nightclub entrance en masse, after someone dispersed Mace and pepper spray in an attempt to break up a fight.

Chicago fire officials said some of the doors at the club were chained shut in an attempt to keep others from breaking in. Or out.

It makes one wonder where you draw the line between security and safety.

Now, reports are coming in that influential black Chicagoans, including the U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., are saying these same police and fire officials are pointing fingers too quickly and that "extending blame and pointing fingers is inappropriate and unnecessary before the first funeral has been held and the investigation is complete."

Am I missing something here?

Anytime someone dies a tragic and unnecessary death (let alone 21 folks who literally perished in a stampede), there'd better be an inquiry or investigation of some sort as soon as possible.

The wheels of justice need to begin turning immediately, not when it's convenient for others.

The last thing I'd like to think is that these same black leaders are trying to play the race card and say the club's owner (a black businessman) is being treated unfairly because of his skin color.

Please. This is not about race, not that something like this should ever be.

It's about fairness.

Chicago police investigators are doing the right thing by immediately investigating to see how this tragedy occurred and to also see how it could have been prevented.

I'd place a wager that police aren't waiting to conduct their investigation because of a perceived racial issue. Especially since Terry Hillard, the Chicago police chief, is black.

I just don't know what's more painful to hear: Twenty-one people dying a senseless death, or the possibility of delaying the investigation into someone's business because of the owner's skin color.

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at