As this blog’s resident skeptic, it’s difficult not to conjecture aloud about what decisions were made after the FLOTUS and company attended Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral. Who knows if any of them came back with a “Barack, it’s bad. You can’t keep ignoring them” so compelling that the POTUS actually stopped reading this month’s Ebony and paid attention. What I do know is that after Michelle Obama and a few other native Chicagoans made the trek from D.C. to the city of wind, the CPD questioned two people–a fact Rahm Emanuel himself delivered to Hadiya’s parents via phone–and the President found a way in his busy schedule to stop by during his three-day tour to promote his economic policy. The President finally fitting Chicago into his schedule can be directly attributed to the BYP’s petition as well as other activists’ efforts to get him to pay attention.
But it’s not over. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws on the books, ostensibly disarming its populace, so it’s quite clear that a pep talk laced with language about the need for more stringent laws would be inadequate. A verbal berating about Popeye’s for breakfast or kids watching too much television and not doing their homework or absent fathers will not help the cause. What might help is an explicit tie between what’s happening in Chicago and what’s not happening on the federal, state and local level to help its black and brown neighborhoods. What might help is assuming that gun violence is the root, but rather the symptom of a larger problem that is about access, economics, and yes, racism. What might help, more than appearances at funerals and invitations to State of the Union addresses, is a comprehensive plan that finally and directly addresses a black constituency that has long supported the President, his family, and his administration despite being ignored in return.
What won’t help, and what I fear might happen, is that the government will take this as an opportunity to further militarize these neighborhoods with an increased police presence and, get this, drones. Believers will know what I mean, when I say cross your fingers that sending Mrs. Obama, et. al. to Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral wasn’t the Obama Administration’s version of sending the praisers first. For those who worked really hard to make Friday happen and who continue to believe that #forward is the way to go, may the President say and do what you desire. Maybe he’s #changed. One can only #hope.