Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stop the Violence

Today's Sun-Times took an innovative approach to try to get people's attention focused on the violence that is omnipresent across certain sections of Chicago. The obvious premise is that too many Chicagoans are simply turning their backs on the issue of gun violence.

This whole message unfortunately ties in well with a press release and press conference that I did a couple of weeks ago with hip hop legend KRS-One, and my friend and colleague, Rep. David Miller. Here is a short excerpt from that press conference:

KRS has been well ahead of the curve on this issue, dating back to his 1989 release of the Self-Destruction single. Now, the recent surge in gun violence has led him to put together an all-star cast of hip hop artists, rappers, gospel greats and reggae legends for a single and album called Self-Construction. And true to form, he practices what he preaches, literally turning the other cheek when struck in the face by a bottle at a performance last week in New Haven.

But there is a greater issue that I tried to point out at the press conference. Bluntly put, I find it hard to believe that there would be so much ambivalence in the city if the two dozen dead school kids would have had blond hair and blue eyes - if they were white. If they were from Ravenswood. From Bridgeport. I am not faulting the Mayor, nor the police department. Rather, I think that a large part of Chicago, for varying reasons, has checked their moral outrage at the door.

If you look at a map of the shooting locations, there is a distinct correlation to the west and south sides of the city. The victims, all minorities.

17, 14, 13, 18, 10, 14, 17, 16, 15, 16, 16, 17, 18, 15, 16, 18, 18, 15, 18, 15, 18, 17, 18.

Those are the ages of the first two dozen kids killed this school year. Kids killing kids. The socioeconomic theories that come into play here are boundless, and many of them are correct. Many youths in our inner city find themselves without opportunity, without hope, and without an alternative to the cycle of violence that surrounds them. This mentality not only serves to cause them to devalue their own lives, it also leads to a lack of comprehension of the moral and social deterrents aimed at preventing them from taking the life of somebody else.

And what has resulted is a tale of two cities. One in which these tragic occurrences are simply facts of life. And another in which more time is spent debating where to put a children's museum rather than figuring out how to get our city's children to and from school without getting killed.

But one way or another, this divide will be erased. Isolated violence, left unchecked, will continue to spread until it pervades neighborhoods across the city. And with summer just around the corner, and the economy leaving more people wanting, the potential for rising tensions is enormous. (Turns out I'm not alone in my thinking, CNN just put up this story, "In Chicago, fears of a long, bloody summer")

Conversely, if we are to move forward as a city, as a society, we must react to every killing as it if had happened on our own block. As I said at the press conference, "this is not a south side issue; this is not a west side issue; this is an issue about too many children in our city killing each other. People of every color, from every part of Chicago, need to come together and say enough."

The time for that statement to be made is now.

If you want to hear more of KRS One's comments from the press conference, watch this video. He brings up some great points:


At April 22, 2008 at 11:01 PM, Anonymous Deep Thinker said...

Wow. Hell of a post.

"Bluntly put, I find it hard to believe that there would be so much ambivalence in the city if the two dozen dead school kids would have had blond hair and blue eyes - if they were white."

It's sad to say, but I think you're right. A lot of people probably think it, but not many have the guts to say it. I hope people wake up. Thanks for putting this out there for people to read.


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