As misplaced as I find the discussion of black-on-black violence in the midst of Black Lives Matter activism, we are at a point where we need to bring as much national attention to gun violence in Chicago as we do police brutality across the country.
While it may seem counterproductive and even duplicitous to suggest stricter gun laws, greater law enforcement, and tougher prison sentences in a time where African Americans are also calling for a crack down on overzealous cops and outlining the cycle of destruction the prison industrial complex has wreaked on the African American family, by all accounts the dire situation in Chicago is an outlier in this us versus them plight for justice. Whether you believe black men in Chicago simply don’t value each other’s lives or you think the increasing homicide rate is a masked effort by law enforcement to allow black men to extinguish themselves from the population, the fact remains that something must be done by us. And the question now is what.
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune last Thursday:
As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, homicides totaled 135, a 71 percent jump over the 79 killings in the same year-earlier period, official Police Department statistics show. That represented the worst first quarter of a year since 136 homicides in 1999, according to the data.
Shootings have jumped by comparable numbers as well. As of Wednesday, at least 727 people had been shot in Chicago so far this year, a 73 percent rise from 422 a year earlier, according to a Tribune analysis of department data.
Given those dismal figures, Chi-town is expected to exceed more than 500 homicides this year — for only the second time since 2008. And a gruesome clip of a man being gunned down on Chicago’s south side while live-streaming a video Saturday morning demonstrates just how ruthless the streets have become and how quickly that figure is rising. But are cops making any attempt to control those numbers? If they are, one thing’s for sure is they’re not giving it their all.
Citing a February report they published on the drop in morale among Chicago PD following the high-profile shooting death of Laquan McDonald, the Tribune noted that cops shared “the McDonald shooting had made them less aggressive on the street out of fear that doing even basic police work would get them into trouble. Criminals were taking advantage of their passive approach, they said.
“The Police Department on Jan. 1 also began requiring that cops fill out detailed reports every time they make a street stop as part of a new state law and a landmark agreement worked out with the American Civil Liberties Union. The change — the result of concerns over racial profiling — has not only kept officers busy with paperwork longer than before, officers said, but also increased their anxiety about being second-guessed on whom they’ve stopped.
“The result was that officers made 6,818 arrests in January, a 32 percent drop from nearly 10,000 arrests a year earlier. The number of street stops also has plummeted, with 9,044 investigatory stop reports issued in January, a fraction of the 61,330 “contact cards” that police issued during January 2015.”
But Chicago gun violence was long a problem before McDonald’s death. Besides crime experts and the American Civil Liberties Union also point out that no empirical evidence exists that suggests low police activity has led to a rise in violence. But what has been proven is that low-socioeconomic standing begets violence, which is why it’s no coincidence the “neighborhoods affected the most by the rise in violence are on Chicago’s South and West sides, which for decades have been stricken by high concentrations of poverty, lack of investment from the city, illegal drug activity and an intractable gang problem,” the Tribune wrote.
Two years ago, US News & World Report stated in a piece titled, “How Violence Perpetuates Poverty:”
“This is the big secret – that the problem is not that poor people don’t get laws, it’s that they don’t get law enforcement. And as a result, that neglect of law enforcement has meant that people with wealth and power in the developing world have set up private security systems to protect themselves and left a vast class of billions of poor people chronically vulnerable to violence.”
Does that not spell out Chicago?
In this nation of rogue law enforcement that so willfully sits by and gives cops the freewill to murder black men and women, I’m not buying the story that Chicago PD is afraid to lock up black men who are killing one another. I believe they don’t care — or they’ve been given the message that the shouldn’t, either directly or indirectly. I’m the last person who wants to see more black men in prison, but I rather see this so-called “small segment of the population” committing these murders behind bars, rather than hundreds more in morgues.
Just as we have the right not to be gunned down by police officers, we have the right not to be shot dead by our neighbors, caught in the cross-hairs of gang violence, and left with no semblance of justice because those in power simply do not care. We need to put the same pressure on the Chicago justice system as we do government in every other city and state to prove the totality of black lives mattering, while doing a better message of instilling that message in our people on our own.