I have been reading a lot of posts over the last year by people (99% white) who are very concerned that all the attention being given to Black people shot and killed by police officers (172 this year) is overshadowing the crises of “Black on Black murder” or as some of us call it “murder” in our urban centers.
The city of Chicago gets a lot of mention during these posts. My sister and her husband and kids lived in Chicagoland ( in the Village of South Holland [lol]) for about 7 years and the place is near and dear to me for that reason– even though I don’t know the city well. I’ve been there about 20 times, but, mainly on the periphery.
Not so for my sister and her husband who in various capacities spent a lot of time working with young people from Chicago.
Despite their first hand experiences and sincere desire to help empower Chicagoans, I have never once heard either of them say “We need to stop with all this attention on police brutality because if people weren’t paying attention to that, we could solve Chicago violence.” Instead they’ve kind of been putting all these things together and positing that many people don’t care about Black people getting murdered no matter who’s doing the killing.
But that’s just them.
Truth: a lot of people who don’t care a fig about Chicago are quick to cite the Chicago murder stats to prove a point. Sometimes, the point is gun laws don’t work (because apparently Chicago lives in some kind of vacuum-sealed dimension un-impacted by laws of surrounding communities….Awesome logic.)
A lot of the time, people’s point is to “prove” activists are out of line calling out police brutality or racism when the real issue is, again, Black on Black Murder (or, again, as some of us call it, murder.)
Here are five things I find problematic with this line of thought
1: People in high-crime neighborhoods still have a right and perhaps duty to protest vociferously if they are also afraid of being brutalized by the people they pay to protect them. And so do people who care about those residents.
It is unclear to me why anyone believes people who live in high crime neighborhoods shouldn’t be particularly concerned about how they’re treated by and how much they can trust in the police. Who would more need to have a reliable police force? Why is it hard to understand citizens who suffer horrible losses from crime are likewise tired of having police mistreat them?
No single entity in a neighborhood is as heavily armed, organized, powerful and potentially lethal as the police. It is not crazy for people to prioritize their demand that police exercise transparency, professionalism and respect on the job. In fact, it would be crazy if they didn’t.
2: Related to this, you can hate that murder is common in our cities while at the same time hating the idea some cops do things like plant weapons or take suspects on “rough rides” or use illegal choke holds.
If you read some of my blog entries, you’ll hopeful see I respect the police. I respect the police who follow the law and uphold it at the same time and who risk their safety every shift for the general welfare. That’s a big deal. It’s noble, even.
Most people believe this.
It is possible to believe this while also believing “Some of these other things other cops are doing are just completely criminal.”
You can do both. You can think both. You know what, you can also, surprisingly, take a knee for the national anthem and also love America and respect the troops.
The idea that we shouldn’t be examining the concerns of (almost all) Black people regarding treatment by law enforcement because other bad things happen more often is just nonsense…unless we don’t believe the mistreatment is happening.
That’s the only explanation for telling Black people to whisper their complaints inoffensively: we don’t believe them.
Because if it were your kid’s life you were fearing for, would you whisper about it? And what would you think of someone who asked you to do so?
3: If you say “Why don’t Black people do something about Black people being killed by Black people? I mean, look at Chicago….” then it’s quite possible you need to meet more Black people or perhaps some Black people.
Listen, I’m not trying to sound like holier-than-thou. I get it. I grew up in an all-white community. I have my prejudices and make my mistakes. Which is why I’m passing on this piece of information to any of my white brothers and sisters out there who have ever said “Why don’t Black people ever do anything about problems in the Black community.”
And that information is simply: you really need to stop saying this.
There is no demographic corner of America more active in the grassroots fight to improve life in low income, high crime Black communities than Black people in low income, high crime Black communities. There just isn’t.
And, wider lens, there’s no demographic of people more involved daily in stemming the tide of “black on black crime” than African Americans. To tell Black people they need to start caring about Black people is is just utter white ignorance of reality. Please stop.
4/It’s is wrong to blame the press for following market demands if you are part of the market demand. People complain black-on-black crime is more prevalent than police killings of Black men yet the latter get a lot more press than other murders. This is true. Why?
Because cop vs Black people narratives touch a nerve across the board, which, in turn, gets a news outlet views or clicks or ratings. And the news business is called the news business for a reason.
But if we look further, it becomes a bit of “chicken or egg.” The press makes a huge deal of cop shooting stories over, say, everyday gang shootings because many white people don’t care about gang shootings. They shrug them off as “Well, that’s just the way it is in those neighborhoods.” Those stories are not deemed click worthy.
And if the majority doesn’t care about the shootings, the majority really doesn’t cares about the chronic problems: the urban poverty, poor social services and inadaquate schools many gang members, for example, are subjected to since, well, birth.
No, instead, we’d rather hear about “controversy” — whether it’s how Black Lives Matter is “playing the race card”….or how low those boys wear their pants.
If you think about the news you pay attention to, what outrages you or gets you to respond, you may probably have to admit it is not the stories on deep-seated problems in American cities. It’s not the cause. It’s the effect.
So if you want different news emphasis, start caring about different things.
5/Lastly, it is gross to use dead children you have never before cared about as a talking point to bolster your arguments.
I find it chilling how quickly people who are not now and have never been sincerely interested in the welfare of children of color in violent neighborhoods, either academically or concretely, now feel totally at ease drawing Chicago murder stats like a sword.
Every single person who has been killed in Chicago by any other person, is- was – someone’s child, loved one, now an empty seat at the table. Each was a human with potential and talents he or she is now unable to contribute to society. They’re not just numbers.
I offer this suggestion, take it for what it’s worth:
If you have no intention – ever – of viewing the murder epidemic in our cities as a serious, complex, tragic, unacceptable epidemic you are willing to in some way help make less horrible? If you’re just bringing it up Chicago murder as a source of factoids you can throw around to shut “them” up?
Then please just stop. Because, frankly, it’s little bit disgusting.
Instead of quoting numbers, can we all start to ask what are WE going to help OUR fellow citizens in OUR cities? Not them, not those people, not that community, not someone else.
What are WE going to do
That question would be a start.
And how we answer it – as a country – will be the difference between thousands of lives either saved or lost.
Thanks for reading,
A list of ways you can help make a difference in Chicago: