Let us get this out of the way: We do not support criminality, and we believe people who commit crimes must be held accountable. What happened this Monday was shocking, disgraceful and a horrible representation of who we are as a people.
Now that we’ve said that we have to say this: What you saw occurring in downtown Chicago was a minor illustration of Chicago’s tale of two cities. We say minor because this city has been blind to what is happening to Black people on the South and West sides of Chicago for years.
We live in a city where the differences between the haves and have-nots could not have been made any clearer than what happened downtown.
Pouring more money into law enforcement has not worked. As police budgets have increased, crime has only proliferated.
What has not happened is the fiscal investment into public policy that will eradicate poverty, joblessness and the rampant inequities that impact the city’s South and West sides.
For nearly eight decades, the Chicago Crusader has chronicled the love and loss, the hopes and dreams, the tragedies and triumphs of our people. It should be noted that 2019 marked the 400th year anniversary of our kidnapping from our native lands and enslavement in more than 15 states in this country. And, we still aren’t free.
Our voting rights are under attack. Gains we fought for during the Civil Rights movement are quietly being eroded by secret executive orders, the Congress and the Supreme Court. Black people are being brutalized, terrorized, humiliated, incarcerated, and killed by the very people who are supposed to protect us.
There are two Chicagos—one is happy and healthy and shocked when incidents of violence reach its doors. In the other Chicago, there is hurt and there is hunger. Violence is the neighbor who will not leave.
We have empathy for the Gold Coast business owners, luxury franchisees and jewelers, who experienced property damage and theft. But who feels for the Soul Coast—the Black people whose lives have been stolen and whose futures have been held captive by the blatant disinvestment in the communities in which we live?
The Crusader is in the 60637 zip code where 36.4 percent of the 47,454 citizens live below the poverty line, and the median household income is $28,785.
In the 60611 zip code where the Magnificent Mile is held as the jewel of Chicago, the median household income is $103,522, and the poverty rate is virtually nonexistent.
In the community of Englewood, which is being blamed for what happened, the poverty rate is 46.6 percent. That means nearly half of the 23,792 people who live there cannot feed themselves, cannot find work, cannot afford health care, and are struggling just to survive.
We, like Fannie Lou Hamer, are sick and tired of being sick and tired. This learned helplessness must stop. Please stop. Cook County has one of the highest concentrations of Black elected officials in this country. We have had three Black U.S. senators, and we even sent a Black family to the White House. Nearly half of Chicago’s City Council is Black.
Since 1867, we have elected 129 African-American legislators to serve in the Illinois State General Assembly. The Mayor of Chicago is Black, the President of the Cook County Board is Black, the Illinois Attorney General is Black, the Cook County State’s Attorney is Black, the chief judge of Circuit Court of Cook County is Black, the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department is Black, the Chicago City Treasurer is Black and the County Clerk for Cook County is Black. With all this Black power, you would think that Black Chicago would be as vibrant and as beautiful as Lincoln Park and Hyde Park. We give them power, and they fight each other and do nothing with it.
The Gold Coast can rebuild. Englewood, Roseland, Woodlawn, Altgeld Gardens, like its counterparts on the West Side, have been depleted by foreclosures, rising rents, job loss, and mass incarceration.
We don’t know if the police should be defunded. We have not taken a position on that. But we are asking that you fund our communities and our futures. We are asking that you value us. We are asking you to please stop having low expectations for us. We are asking our Black elected officials to stop the self-hatred and to cease promoting a narrative that “we” get what “we” deserve.
If we do not want to see more uprisings where poor people run rampant on rich people, then you will live up to the ideals of democracy, you will stop the blame game, you will meet with the people who are hurting, and you will work with them to develop public policy and investment strategies that will help and heal their communities.
Dorothy R. Leavell, Publisher
The Chicago Crusader Newspaper