There are thousands of articles online at this point about the gun violence in Chicago and the larger issue of gun violence throughout this country. However as it relates to Chicago……there is so much to be said and done that one hardly knows where to start. We can talk about access to guns, a rigged prison-industrial complex, gang retaliation, aggressive police tactics, a lack of economic opportunity, a culture of nihilism in certain urban communities, a lack of quality education in the CPS school system and the attendant lack of life skills preparation, annnnddd the list can go on ad infinitum. It’s simple, this problem is too big to tackle in conventional terms. All of these reasons and at least a dozen others are to blame for the gun violence in Chicago and a multi-prong, swift as possible approach is the only way to make noticeable, measurable, and real progress in not losing so many of our citizens to gun violence and the prison system they disappear into, if they just happen to not lose their life.
On social media, I see so many, ‘damn chicago’, ‘uh oh chiraq’, ‘smdh’ and many other references to the hurt, pain, and shame we feel that our city has turned into a such a place. And we feel anger that this is not a problem that plagues the entire city, but the poor areas and the areas with a high minority concentration. So it’s easy for the media and even our own city citizens to believe that this is black and brown and poor person problem. The bigger problem is that they are not wrong and the truth of that is a hard pill to swallow. To be clear a city that appears unsafe effects tourism and capital investment, so city hall and the richer and whiter sections do have a dog in the race as it relates to mitigating the damage of an unsafe reputation. But the problems listed above are not ones that any of these monolithic entities and institutions can fix and certainly not by themselves.
They can not fix them because they do not understand black, brown, and poor people. They do not understand why a male stands on a corner to sell drugs and risks getting shot just to feed his siblings because the Link didn’t come through this month. They do not understand how a young man can willingly fire into a crowd of people to be initiated into the only family he’s ever really known. They do not understand how in a rage over the death of a friend, that a youth and his crew feel it appropriate to shoot at the funeral procession of the enemy who killed their friend. They do not understand that a young girl will make the decision to leave her back pack at home and consciously elect to not do her homework because she wants to fit in with her peers and appearing ‘smart’ could be grounds for a simple case of bullying if not outright assault. There isn’t a politician, rich person, or a white citizen of this city that gets any of that. Because they have little to no life experience with the culture and perspectives that create these situations.
To better explain what government and the well-to-do can’t understand concerning the violence in this city, take the case of the hash tag #firstworldproblems. There are thousands of memes on the internet that include something like, “oh man, I can’t decide between these 2 $200 fossil watches, #decisions” and the another person writes underneath it, ‘boo hoo #firstworldproblems.” The point is that there are people in the world where deciding between two watches is the pinnacle of difficulty they experience. This person would have no clue about how to get well water to a village in Africa or end centuries of tribal war fare between factions in the mountains of Afghanistan. There life experience just doesn’t comprise that skill set. And in this way, a privileged politician or sympathetic wealthy individual would have little to no frame of reference for how to stop gun violence than a first worlder dealing with third world issues. Our problems are not their problems. And King was right in saying that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But that is an ideal and the reality is that injustice can remain localized and not spread (just look at the difference between the North side and the South/West side sections of this city). We, the black, the brown, the poor have to be proactive about getting our due. Unfortunately, what stands for activism now a days is a tweet, a share, or signing a petition if you’re not already on the front lines working in grass roots organizations.
If we’re really going to tackle these problems we have to do more than just be willing to shake our heads. Some solutions include (1) more black male mentors and teachers, specifically schooling that targets this as a profession and volunteer opportunity (2) scholarships for black students particularly in vocations like nursing, teaching, engineering, etc. (3) a collective negotiating contract with several business that operate in North America and this collective bargaining for development, zoning, etc. is handled by neighborhood chambers of commerce in disenfranchised neighborhoods and backed by the city councilmen to increase commerce, jobs, and capital re-investment (4) free classes in gun safety where ever heavy gun violence has played a role, to really teach, youth in particular, about the weight and responsibility of gun use, whether legal or not, and even more about proper shooting and firing. This may not be a popular idea, but if all we get initially is less collateral damage, I’ll take it and I’m sure others would too. (5) and of course after school programs, paid for by us. Specifically, a small required donation once a month (based on a sliding scale of income) from the citizens in the neighborhood who make use of the programs. Self development and betterment should require a personal investment because you have a stake in it and where the stakes are high, people have been shown to do great things. Doing what’s necessary to improve your life shouldn’t be free and indeed even if you haven’t paid a dime, you will have paid in effort.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does start the ball rolling. It would bring jobs to disenfranchised communities, put positive role models in front of our youth, change the perception of guns and their use, finally make us financially responsible for our youth’s future, and most importantly, puts us in the drivers seat to see the change we want. Not marching and rallying on City Hall for scraps and policies that appear to help our community, but are mostly cosmetic, window dressing, and politically motivated. We need to put the onus on ourselves because others outside our community just simply do not understand us enough to do what’s right. Either because they have no sympathy or because their ideas and solutions will never fit us well because they don’t understand the core issues. Like any disease, you can treat the symptoms all you want, but to remove it completely, you need to treat the cause. Others outside our community simply don’t have the medicine to treat the causes of our problems, but we do.