Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chicago Beating Death Shocks White House—But Now What?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There’s an outsized map of Chicago on the wall of the office of the Black Star Project. In the center of the map there’s the letter "A". The letter is the Chicago home of the Obamas. The “A” is surrounded by yellow stickers that make the map look like the bullseye of a dart board. The analogy is deadly fitting because each one of the stickers represents a child under age 18 who was murdered.
The victims were all African-American, and outside of their grieving families and friends, a brief mention in the local press, and the pleas from a handful of local activists to do something about the carnage, their deaths drew barely a ripple of media and public attention. The yellow stickers circling Obama’s home are no aberration. In the past year more than 40 young persons have beeen murdered in Chicago, many within a stone’s throw of the President’s home. A three year study of murders in the city found that young black males in the most impoverished parts of the city were 30 times more likely to be murdered than young white males living in white areas.

It took the cell phone video of 16 year-old Derrion Albert being bludgeoned to death on a Chicago street to momentarily at least change that. Obama will deplore the violence, Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will propose ramped up spending on education youth education and violence prevention programs and anti-gang violence initiatives, and with much media fanfare there’ll be a round-up or two of alleged gang members.

But as in the past the flashy, new initiatives, unveiled after much public anguish over a particular heinous killing, may again fizzle out due to lack of money, lack of political will to push them through, or lack of practicality. Increased dollars alone, Holder’s and Duncan’s inner-city treks, and moral finger wag, will do little to stop the killing. Many of the young men that tuck guns in their waistbands and shoot-up their neighborhoods or beat to death an honors student feel that no one cares whether they live or die. Their belief that their lives are devalued fosters disrespect for the law and forces them to internalize anger and displace aggression onto others.

Many of them, mostly young black and Latino males, have become especially adept at acting out their frustrations at white society's denial of their "manhood" by adopting an exaggerated "tough guy" role. They swagger, boast, curse, fight and commit violent self-destructive acts. The accessibility of drugs, and guns, and the influence of misogynist, violent-laced rap songs also reinforce the deep feeling among many youth that life is cheap and easy to take, and there will be minimal consequences for their action as long as their victims are other young blacks or Latinos. And as long as the attackers regard their victims, such as Albert, as weak, vulnerable, and easy pickings they will continue to kill and maim with impunity.
The other powerful ingredient in the deadly mix of youth violence is the drug plague. Drug trafficking not only provides illicit profits but also makes the violence even more widespread. The innocent victims that are caught in gang shoot-outs thus further fortifying the conviction that inner city streets are depraved war zones.

It's not just drugs and hopelessness that drive young men, especially young black men to kill. The huge state and federal cutbacks in job training and skills programs, the brutal competition for low and semi skilled service and retail jobs from immigrants, and the refusal of many employers to hire those with criminal records have sledge hammered black communities. The unemployment rate of young black males is double and in some parts of the country, triple that of white males. The high number of miserably failing inner-city public schools also fuels the unemployment crisis. They have turned thousands of blacks into educational cripples. These students are desperately unequipped to handle the rapidly evolving and demanding technical and professional skills in the public sector and the business world of the 21st Century. The educational meltdown has seeped into the colleges. According to an American Council of Education report, in the past decade Latino, Asian, and black female student enrollment has soared while black male enrollment has plunged.

There's no magic formula to stop the violence. Federal and state officials must drastically increase funds for violence prevention and gang intervention programs. They must call on educators, health professionals, drug counselors, and gang intervention activists to devise and provide the crucial resources for more programs to keep at risk youth off the streets. The Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Democrats must continue to challenge the Obama administration and corporations to do more to end discrimination and create more job and training opportunities for young blacks.
It took the shock and horror of Derrion’s murder to shake up a president and a nation. The real test is when the shock passes will the White House continue to do what needs to be done to prevent other Derrion Albert’s from meeting the same fate.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.


msladydeborah said...
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msladydeborah said...

This is all well and good. But, let's keep it real. Gangs are not a new element of Chicago. There was a gang problem in the sixties and it was ugly then too. Perhaps the major difference over the years is the fact that with technology we don't get to by pass what was put in our faces.

I also feel very strongly that before everybody starts demanding that the government do something-what about us? When do we start owning up to our part in helping to create the problem? There is nothing that has been said about the conditions that are new. There is nothing new about Black on Black crime. Everybody already knows what helps to breed the conditions. But, there is also the fact that our community helps as well. Whenever this aspect of the problem comes up-everybody seems to suddenly become afraid to state this as a fact.

Demanding that tons of federal money be poured into a community didn't ease the problem before. Morality does have a place within the issue. Money does not change self-concept if you do not like yourself. Money cannot teach you to have a sense of value about life period. That is something that cannot be pay checked. That's a self concept that has to be forwarded all over our community.

If we as a collective national community of people are not willing to commit to work on the total package-the problem isn't going to stop. All we will be doing is re-cycling the same half assed solutions. Either We are going to commit to work on helping with our children from conception to adulthood or be prepared to see more of them die nationwide. And that was happening before Obama took office.

Anonymous said...

Agree it is responsibility of the community! It is their local problem and they must work cops, school, community leaders, civic leaders, sororities, and most importantly churches pastors & congregations to meet with youth and gang members and WORK TOGETHER! It needs to be VOLUNTEER and no pay given for wanting to improve condition of LIVES & HEARTS! This is a heart problem to be corrected!

We have done this is Chapin SC and can help you achieve! Go to your mentors across the USA who have made a difference in their community! This is not a government problem. Each local is unique with own ways to solve and will bring community together to heal and most importantly to GROW in LOVE! Must endure the pain and cry together for real love that encourages and finds lasting solutions not a "quick fix!"
Betty in Chapin