On the Fourth of July, comedian Chris Rock tweeted: "Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks." Chris Rock disowns the holiday with tongue-in-cheek.
Well right back at you Mr. Rock. My continental European ancestors weren't in the USA when colonists won their independence from England. My grandparents didn't even speak English when they arrived in the U.S., but according to this tweet, their whiteness took ownership of Independence Day from African Americans. Is there nothing those poor European immigrants didn't ruin for real Americans?
No Laughing Matter
But in Chicago, there are more reasons for tears than laughter. Unemployment is high in many poor African American communities, and crime rates are horrific. One can barely call them communities. For too many, parenting skills are woefully inadequate. Innocent young children out in late night and early morning hours with a parent nearby having been shot. The leading cause of death of young black men is lead poisoning. Jobs are scarce. Decent people are afraid of gangs in their so-called communities. While most of the negative results have fallen on the black community, as I've stated in earlier years, it's not a race war, it's a class war.
More Shooting Deaths in Chicago than in Afghanistan So Far This Year
On June 25, 2012, the New York Times ran a front page story about the 38% rise in killings in Chicago. Most of the deaths were due to black on black crime. Again, Chicago has a lot of crime, and it is not limited to black communities, but the fact is that crime is concentrated in gang dominated black communities and in non-black communities where non-black gangs have taken hold. Gang warfare has exacerbated the problem:
"That's somebody's husband, somebody's son, and they're dying right on our block," said Maya Hodari, who lives on a South Side street where two shootings have already taken place this year, one of them fatal and another as a toddler looked on. "It hurts."
Yet schools report that teachers can't discipline children, and when they speak to a parent, they are often met with denial and verbal abuse instead of cooperation and backup. Police have difficulty getting cooperation from witnesses. Budget cuts have resulted in an undermanned and demoralized police force (see the following commentary).
Criminals Are Responsible for Their Own Actions
The Chicago media has reported the upswing in "wildings" and what is often not reported is that most -- but not all (we have our share of white and Latino gangs in Chicago) -- are gangs of black youths. This year there seems to be a new twist. Black mobs are attacking non-blacks, and sometimes the mob is not doing it for economic gain. For example, on the Fourth of July, eleven black youths -- nine of the eleven ranged in age from 14 to 17 -- were arrested in connection of the beating of a white man steps away from the Magnificent Mile shopping area. The man was struck, fell to the ground and hit his head. He was hospitalized in good condition.
The police were in plain view during the attack, but the gang didn't care. The police report showed that after they beat the man, "they laughed about the attack while pushing other pedestrians to the ground, and jumping on top of passing cars."
It's much too easy to let politicians divide the nation, make this about race, and ignore the underlying causes. It's true that most of the mobs in downtown Chicago are comprised of African Americans and some of this seems to rise to the level of hate crimes. But gangs of Hispanic and white youths have also caused problems. The problem isn't the race of the perpetrators; it's that the criminals lack respect for themselves, lack respect for others, and lack respect for authority.
I see the same lack of respect for others on Wall Street where I encounter a better dressed and better educated gang of -- mostly white -- destructive criminals thieving and mugging with fountain pens. In case Chris Rock is wondering, the perps are mostly men, but it would be too easy to let politicians and irresponsible academicians divide the nation and make this about gender. Incredibly, junk scientists in academia have tried to claim that "testosterone" is a contributing cause to rogue traders who seek thrills, suggesting women wouldn't behave this way. These professors apparently know very little about women. If women had a Wall Street gang that would let them gamble, cheat, and steal and buy off Congress, you'd have to watch women like hawks, too. There are way too many "leaders" and so-called journalists who make excuses for (mostly) non-violent criminals.
No Excuses for Criminals or for the Police Superintendent
Incredibly, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy gave a talk to black leaders wherein he seemed to be blaming Pilgrims and actions of the police for the crime in black communities. One can sympathize with the stew of social and economic conditions that can foster criminal behavior, but that doesn't absolve perpetrators of responsibility for their own actions.
What is Garry McCarthy's explanation for his cop-out? It's not racist to say there are irresponsible black people terrorizing black communities. Most of the people in these communities want a peaceful life, and they know the criminals aren't Pilgrims.
In 2010 and 2011, I wrote about Chicago's crime problems. The commentary below is adapted from my 2010 post. The problems faced by the demoralized Chicago Police Department haven't changed even though Chicago then had a different mayor and a different superintendent. In fact, the problems are even worse. The police force is critically undermanned, and they are being spat at, verbally abused, punched, kicked, stabbed, shot at and have had their cars deliberately rammed.
Third World America : 'Fast-Tracking to Anarchy' - August 25, 2010
My last post about Arianna Huffington's new book, Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream talked about the Great Recession, the Great Bailout, and the Great Cover-Up of financial crimes.
Among the future consequences of not fixing our national problems will likely be an increase in social unrest and an increase in crime. A look at Chicago's problems may serve as a call to action for America's middle class. Chicago's city budget is in dire straits. That's also true of the state of Illinois, California, New York and other areas. In Chicago, the same mismanagement that deepened our fiscal crisis has caused a crisis in essential city services.
The police department provides just one example. Sunday's Chicago Tribune reported that in 31 days, there were 303 shot and 33 dead. "Crime has been holding steady in Chicago in recent years. Through July, there have been 1,089 shootings in the city, a 2.4 percent decrease over last year." [These lower numbers are 2010 figures.]:
According to the newspaper, it's a "typical" July. Yet there is nothing typical about it when you look beyond the numbers. The first problem is that the numbers are flat-out unacceptable in any year in any city in the U.S. It is inexplicable that citizens of Chicago have tolerated this situation in poorer neighborhoods for decades. The second problem is a new problem. Years of complacency by Chicago's middle and upper classes have brought the crisis to their doorstep.
In recent years, incompetent and ill-qualified people have been promoted to "leadership" positions. Hiring and exam giving has declined, and the police department is undermanned and demoralized. Even worse is the fragging officers take from politicians, unqualified people in police "administration," and from the local media.
Spiraling Out of Control: Open Season on Cops
The title of this post comes from "A City at War With Itself," a commentary written by Lt. John Andrews, a 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department:
Most horrific for Chicago is that in less than 60 days, Chicago has lost 3 of its police officers, killed by gunfire as victims of robberies. It seems no one is safe in our city anymore.
Chicago's homicide rate this year currently stands toe-to-toe with the total number of military forces killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thugs, gangs and renegade groups run the streets and neighborhoods, intimidating and victimizing the decent citizens of this city. They go mostly unchallenged and unchecked by a totally demoralized police force that is dangerously understaffed and still out-gunned on the
Lt. Andrews describes in detail a police department demoralized by scandals and corruption. He names those who received promotions based on political pull rather than merit or suitability for responsibility. Moreover, police fear reprisals from political special interest groups when using necessary force:
When asked, most will freely tell you that they do not want to place themselves, their families and livelihoods at risk from a perceived Machiavellian police superintendent or other incompetent "bosses" that could lead them into legal trouble that would risk their liberty and freedom (jail).
[Lt. Andrews faced backlash for bringing these matters to light. See "In Third World America Expect to Be Investigated, as Lt. John Andrews Is Being Investigated, for Speaking Up," Huffington Post, August 28, 2010. The investigation cleared Lt. Andrews.]
Even during televised speeches at the recent funerals of police officers, public officials speak out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they decry the apparent targeted shootings of police officers -- one of whom, Michael Bailey, was wearing his uniform after just coming off duty from a night of guarding [then Mayor Daley's] house -- and on the other hand, they say that of course, police must follow proper procedures and work within the law (and often pause for effect).
Of course, everyone agrees the police must follow proper procedures, but the subtext of the message delivered at an officer's funeral is repellant. These thinly-disguised campaign speeches suggest the police force needs to be careful not to bring these tragedies upon themselves. Perhaps they think police should round up suspects and put them in Monty Python's comfy chair.
If the goal is to help police officers follow proper procedures at all times, then politicians and the police superintendent have to staff the force with well-qualified recruits (this means creating a reasonable qualification exam), remove corrupt "leaders" by reversing ridiculous promotions, and promote qualified officers based on merit. The police force desperately needs manpower and both physical and leadership back-up. Officers confident that their authority is respected, their judgment is trusted, and their tools are equal to a dangerous and difficult job will produce better results than people who have been left hanging out to dry, while their colleagues are massacred.
Local media has lost the plot. A couple of days ago, an off-duty police officer shot and killed an armed home invader who had kicked in his door. The officer reportedly lives on a block with five or six other police officers. The intruder allegedly has a history of wrongdoing and invaded a suburban home with another man. He posed as a cable worker and bound and gagged his victims. Yet, some news reports described the intruder as a "victim" and said the off-duty officer was not charged, as if charges should have even been an issue. According to comments posted at Second City Cop, WGN's televised news unwisely showed the police officer's home, identified his neighborhood, and zoomed in on his home address.
Formerly "safe" and "upscale" neighborhoods have become the targets of "wildings." James Carlini, a Contributing Commentator WTN News (Carlini lives in Illinois and grew up in Chicago), gave an eyewitness account of his experience of Chicago's "land sharks" at the premier shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile, or Mag Mile:
Coming back to the John Hancock to pick up my car at around 9PM, I noticed several little bands of four to five juveniles walking around sizing up people as they walked down the streets. Luckily we were already in our car, but I could sense that these "gangsta wannabes" were up to no good.
There were some arrests made that night but very suspicious that there was no mention in the mainstream media. There have been incidences like this before but never a mention or a caution. Why? Afraid to report on the truth or were you told not to report on the truth?
Response to Huffington Post's Readers' Comments [in August 2010] About Race:
I never mentioned race in my [August 25, 2010] post, but a few commenters brought up race and made unwarranted assumptions. Some commenters assumed "wildings" only involve black youths. Chicago is a city with a lot of diversity and gangs of every race. I mentioned a separate incident of an armed intruder being shot and killed by an off duty police officer; the armed intruder was not African American. I also mentioned three police officers were shot and killed within the past 60 days. Two were African American, one was not.
Buy Back America
If nothing else good comes out of our crisis, perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call for the entire nation. It's time to put our shoulders to the wheel to solve our problems.
Doing nothing is not an option for America. Much of poor America, especially in our major cities, has been Third World America for decades. Soon the urban middle classes and even upper classes will become better acquainted with that world.
Washington's political corruption and mismanagement has the same roots as Chicago's. As Arianna points out, on a national level, we need "the mother of all reforms:"
"That is why the first step toward stopping our relentless transformation into Third World America has to be breaking the choke hold that special interest money has on our politicians." (Third World America, 172)
On a local level, Chicago will have to fix its own problems by breaking the choke hold of special interest groups. On a national level, it will take a Constitutional amendment requiring full public financing for political campaigns (for starters). Our politicians have shown us how willing they are to be owned by special interest groups that will buy votes, buy a campaign, or just buy them off. As Arianna explains: "If someone's going to own the politicians, it might as well be the American people."
Related Commentaries on this Topic by Janet Tavakoli:
"Third World America 2011: Forget 'Fast Tracking to Anarchy' We've Arrived" - Huffington Post - June 8, 2011.
"Third World America: Drowning in Debt and Choking on Lies" - Huffington Post, June 24, 2011.