The violence in Chicago is out of control. The weekend of August 6, when 75 people were shot and 12 killed, was a tipping point and notice for all of us as, once again, Chicago made international news with street crime statistics.
They can provide news reports on how the crime rate is dipping, but they can’t prove it when the next news story is about how many people were robbed, carjacked, shot or killed over the weekend.
Chicagoans are not facing reality. There is gang war taking place on the streets and now the gangs and bad guys have taken crime to the North Side. Crime has diversified to encompass Michigan Avenue, Lincoln Park and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s precious Riverwalk. Crime has moved downtown, to the Gold Coast and to the white north side.
In other words, white folks are now being affected by the crime and violence that was once limited to the Black and brown neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Now the city is beginning to acknowledge that crime is out of hand because now it is not known where it will strike or whom it will affect.
There is a load of racism fueling the crime and violence problems. Community neglect, community isolation, lack of economic development, poor education, poor housing, lack of jobs, etc. all add up to a poverty bound group. We have to own up to the racism to really solve the problem. It is an economic issue.
Segregation is a factor and the economy of the Black community begs for restructuring. Black businesses on the South and West sides are limited and choked. The Black economy sees a dollar circulate in its community one time. It comes in and it goes out.
Neighborhoods are filled with foreign-born businesses. Black Ma and Pa shops are gone. Restaurants are few and far between. We are loaded with liquor stores, hair care shops, nail shops, corporate-owned gas stations with no services, fast food franchises, and a few bars with no music. The South Side of yesteryear, with thriving businesses from boutiques to movie theaters, eating places and entertainment, is history.
A Long-Building Problem
There is no one or easy solution. It is a problem that has developed over years of neglect – planned and unplanned – that has resulted in unsolved and unresolved problems.
The mayor pointing his finger at Black morality is insulting and sounds like white man paternalism. “Rahm Knows Best” could be the name of his show. But the reality is that this mayor is not a listening mayor, not even to those who work closely with him, including staff, consultants and friends.
Long ago, Rahm should have called community stakeholders together to talk about the crime problem and come up with solutions. But a one-man leader type doesn’t work in Chicago, even if he puts on a sweater for a fireside chat type TV commercial.
Rahm Emanuel seems to have a basic disrespect for Black Chicago, which he has neglected terribly. Rahm is the “skyscraper” mayor, who especially kowtows to out of town developers.
To address the issue of crime and violence in Chicago, the best minds need to be pulled together, with only solutions-oriented discussions allowed. The University of Chicago has studied every Black problem known to mankind with foundation funding. But limited funds have been given to Black organizations to solve these problems.
It is time for all hands on deck to come up with solutions. It is time for thinking heads to come together to solve the problems, in addition to the politicians. The politicians can be useful in solving the problems that many of them are responsible for.
It is time for the people of the community to come together to solve our problems collectively and tell the politicians what we want in the form of demands. Part of the problem is that the people have let the politicians run amuck with no accountability.
Here, in my meager way, I am suggesting a 10-point plan for solutions. Some you may agree with and some you may not, but I am putting something on the table toward resolving the problems.
A List Of Solutions
1 – MEETINGS. Since the invention of social media like Facebook and the Internet, we, the community, have ceased meeting and talking and problem solving. We have become a culture of solo silos. We, the people, need to have regular meetings regarding our problems.
For example, if there is a problem on the block, then the block club needs to take a look at the solution. So, whatever your group interest is, meet on it regularly at church, at the community organization, in the kitchen, at the hall, at the restaurant, at school. The point is – have face-to-face meetings about issues.
2 – The police department needs to restore the GANG UNIT. Chicago, like it or not, functions on a culture of gangs. Remember Al Capone in the days of Prohibition. In the days of the Blackstone Rangers, there were some communities that went untouched because the ministers and real community organizers talked to them and stopped them before they got started. Policemen knew the gangs, their leadership, their hierarchy and their moves. The Gang Unit in the police department needs to be restored.
3 – FOUNDATIONS. The foundations do not fund Black projects as they could. They tend to fund stop the violence activity with white organizations and white male-headed organizations. Black men will solve the crime problem in the Black community, not white men in the Black community.
Black boys need Black men to talk to, to challenge and to teach. Black men will provide the intervention that is desperately required. Foundations need to fund Black males and Black male institutions, perhaps funding new organizations to mentor Black boys, particularly those with no men in their households. They need guidance. There is a scream by Black boys for Black male parenting and mentoring.
4 – PARENTING. Older children are raising children, too often. Parenting needs to be taught in schools, perhaps at the junior and senior year levels in high school, and in the community colleges. Courses need to be developed on what it means to be a parent, including responsibility, healthy pregnancy, nutrition, stages of development, child rearing, education, and the like. It is said there is no manual on how to raise a child…but there could be courses taught on best practices. It take a family to raise a child, it take a village to nurture one.
5 – INVESTMENT. The political process needs to be restructured and reconsidered on investing in the community. Specific funds need to be geared to the South Side and West Side of Chicago for the sole purpose of economic development. A Marshall Plan is in order and funding could be based on tax revenue, corporate sponsorship, angel funding, and foundation grants. The South and West sides need to be targeted based on decades of neglect. If we can do it for Germany after World War II we can do in Chicago with a focus in 2018.
6 – INCARCERATION. A real problem in the Black community that is not being faced is the incarceration rate. What happens when the prisoner returns home? How does he or she regroup and reorganize back into society? That is a fundamental challenge.
The schoolhouse and the church need to open their doors to re-integrate ex-offenders back into society. They may need training for jobs. The unions that have traditionally had a reserve for certain ethnic groups need to be forced by law to teach and train them in the trades.
7 – CONSTRUCTION. As developers build in the City of Chicago, a law needs to be put in place insisting on 20 percent of the workforce being African American. The city cannot continue to bring in outsiders and white exclusives and Hispanic-only on construction jobs. The industry must be forced to open up to Black men in particular.
8 – Repurpose the CLOSED SCHOOLS. The 50 schools Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed in 2013 not only shut down education, but they also had a negative impact on the neighborhoods. Those schools should be reopened and repurposed instead of sitting as vacant, decaying white elephants in the community. Some ideas that come to mind are 1871 centers, shelters for the homeless, teaching centers, industrial centers, new technology centers, culinary schools, facebook and google offices etc.
9 – BOOT CAMPS. Youth who are shooters and first offender criminals need to be removed after their second offense and put in boot camps. Boot camps on the order of the teachings of the Steve Harvey Camp, which concentrates on young men with single mother parenting. Black men should be trained to teach them in a military fashion. The point is to repurpose the youth. If this does not work after a certain amount of time, they should be sent to the army, where fighting is the order of the day.
10 – SPORTS AND ARTS. Every school should restore sports and all students should have a mandatory sport or cultural activity, like basketball, football, tennis, track, dancing, music, robotics, and painting. Children need structured, constructive activity after school to direct their attention and to encourage social development.
By no means at all is this gospel. These are merely my humble suggestions to help solve our city’s problems. I am sure there are many more ideas and solutions to go along with these. But let’s start somewhere.
And bravo to those who are already working it out.
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