Rahm Emanuel is a man with absolutely no integrity. He could benefit from reading a couple of my articles where I discuss the importance of politicians being trustworthy. I was watching a documentary on CBS called “The War in Chicago” which discussed gang violence in Chicago; the piece focused on a young sister I attended school with and the Chicago Debate Summer Institute who, unfortunately, was shot and killed. After her death, Chicago’s homicide rate decreased significantly. Not because of any socioeconomic changes or policies of social justice, but simply because there was more police patrolling the streets and targeting gang hotspots in an Iraqi-like surge manner; officers in the area placed emphasis on confiscating guns and performing drug raids. However, the amount of police working overtime is costing Chicago loads of money – and the city may not be able to afford it in the future.
So, a news reporter questioned Rahm Emanuel about the longevity of his policies, but Emanuel refused to answer the question and explicitly stated he would answer his question later after other reporters had their turn. Get this: he said—“I promise!” But after the other reporters had their turn to ask their utterly insignificant questions of no concern to the survival of black youth—Rahm Emanuel walked out! The news reporter who wanted to ask about Chicago’s gang-violence—blustered his question out, saying, “You promised Rahm Emanuel!” but Ramn Emanuel walked out, refusing to answer, and turned his back to the reporter – a symbolic gesture indicating his feelings regarding black youth throughout the inner-city of Chicago.
All politicians lie and break promises. But Rahm Emanuel literally broke a simple promise to answer a question within a couple of minutes of making it. Perhaps Rahm Emanuel could learn from street gangs—even the most bloody and hardcore street gangs have ethics such as, “My word is my bond,” demonstrating the importance of fulfilling promises. I have long suspected Rahm Emanuel of not caring about black people, and its becoming very clear with every passing day. Recently, he closed down the RedLine for some alleged reconstruction plan. The problem with that? The RedLine is practically the exclusive method for the black community to travel downtown.
By the time of age nine I’m already decidin’
If I can protect mommy from the hood by fightin’
Or usin’ a knife or a gun when I’m twenty-one
By by then them hoods woulda pushed their way in our apartment
And we die then, so I been a young nervous wreck in the projects…–Nas
How many niggaz gon’ die this summer?
While living in New Orleans, I would always draw a star on myself out of childhood boredom. When my mother saw it, she informed me never to draw that on myself while visiting my grandmother in Chicago because some could interpret as a gang sign. I did not understand at the time, but while in middle school my family and I moved to Chicago. I was the new kid in class and the most frequent question they asked me after my name was, “What you is?” and, “Are you one of those hurricane Katrina refugees?”
I was confused by the, “What you is?” question – it was grammatically incorrect and I had no idea how to answer it. But I would eventually learn that these students – all between eleven to twelve – were asking for my gang affiliation. The school had numerous gangs in it: Gangsta Disciples, Black P Stones, and Black Disciples.
I, of course, as someone who recently moved to Chicago, belonged to no gang at all. I eventually befriended a kid who was pretty bright and, like me, he did not belong to any gang. My mother used to pick him after school and drive him to his house. He often expressed fear walking to school by himself, scared that he would be caught in a shootout and he often expressed his plans for the future to start a business and work to combat gang violence.
After graduating from that middle school and going on to high school (King College Prep), me and my old friend lost contact. But, a few days ago I received a friend-request from him on Facebook. On his page, I saw multiple postings, pictures and signs which indicated he had joined a gang. How could someone who once spoke to me so positively, expressing his plans indicating he had such a bright future, be caught up in such a violent culture?
The reality is, gang culture is thoroughly ingrained within impoverished Chicago Black youth and is a product of institutionalized racism. One does not have to go out and actively pursue a gang leader to join a gang; instead, gangs are almost entirely determined by ones neighborhood, and kids join them for protection, money and respect. Let’s take the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood as an example. When blacks first began to move in, whites formed neighborhood associations with slogans like: “America for Whites, Africa The Only Place for Niggers.” One white lady protesting this “injustice” said, “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages.”
While these whites portrayed African-Americans as savages, all the behavior that whites were involved in to defend against integration were of that very nature. After a rumor that a house in Englewood was going to be purchased by a black family, whites began to carry out bombings, physical assaults, and arson on black residents for simply trying to live their lives. After putting up posters saying “NEGROES INVADING,” a bunch of white racists came together starting the “EngleWood Race Riots of 1949.” As African-Americans continued to move in, “a white plight” took place as whites moved to suburban areas, leaving the black community in absolute turmoil, chaos, and social decay. The violence in Chicago and formations of gangs is a direct result of such injustices.
Chicago street gangs are a product of social conditions created by institutional racism, police brutality, and white vigilantism. Chicago’s state-sanctioned racism produces “thugs” and systematically strips the morality from people, replacing it with a stone cold heart that is seen as necessary to survive on these mean streets. The obstacles that were, and still are, put in place to halt black socioeconomic aspirations has resulted in black youth acquiring detrimental social, economic, and political habits that are exemplified in the gangs that roam Chicago’s streets.
What is missing from the conversation of Chicago’s gang violence is the role that institutional racism plays in maintaining, sustaining, and facilitating gang violence in Chicago. Perhaps the overtime pay that goes to the Chicago Police Department to invade and monitor black neighborhoods should instead go to fund social policies and jobs that can address the root cause of this violence. Until then, the question must be asked, “How many niggas gonna die this summer?”
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Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?id=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1
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