Editorials

The awful price of violence today and tomorrow

By Final Call News | Last updated: Mar 9, 2017 - 11:00:03 AM

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Vice President Michael Pence administers the oath of office to Jeff Sessions to be the 84th Attorney General of the United States as President Trump looks on. Photo: Justice Department

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There was good news for six days in the city of Chicago: No one had been shot and killed.

It’s sad that such a small window without a gun death was major news because it flew in the face of almost daily reports that someone in the third largest city in America lost life at the barrel of a gun.

Chicago’s almost complete week without a fatal shooting ended when the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office reported March 5 that Antoine D. Watkins, 22, had died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Just before the “lull,” there had been a spate of shootings of women, pregnant women and children and some of the shootings were fatal. More than 100 gun deaths were reported by March 6 in a city in which 762 people lost their lives to guns last year.

Sadly in the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrators were young Black men killing other young Black men or young Latino men killing other young Latino men.

Sixty-five percent of the deaths occurred in five districts on the South and West sides of the city—areas that are again predominantly Black and Brown.

The shootings take a heavy toll on the spirits, psyche and the health of residents in these areas—where the lack of security and the feeling of insecurity can be stifling. Parents don’t let children go outside for fear of an unexpected and unnecessary deadly encounter. Children suffer from symptoms akin to soldiers in war zones. Families are often plagued by multiple deaths of sons and daughters born to a mother or father. Then there is the failure of a billion dollar budgeted police department to solve murders: Only a third of murder cases are solved. That means a whopping 70 percent of murder cases go unsolved.

The deaths also seem to breed a kind of fatalism focused on living today with no hope for tomorrow and a host of dangerous behaviors. With little hope for the future, nothing seems too far out of bounds or too risky.

Meanwhile President Trump has promised to end the “carnage” in Chicago, if the mayor and the troubled police force can’t do the job. Mr. Trump isn’t talking about dealing with underlying social and economic causes of violence but a crackdown.

In a speech that received much less attention than the president’s message to a joint session of Congress, the U.S. attorney general signaled where the Justice Dept. is going.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered an important, if underreported message, to the National Association of Attorneys General annual winter meeting as February came to a close.

“Today I want to discuss something that I know is on your minds, and that greatly concerns me as well—the recent, disturbing rise in violent crime in our nation,” said the attorney general, according to a copy of his remarks as prepared for delivery on Feb. 28.

“First, let’s put things in context. Overall, crime rates in the United States remain near historic lows. Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980. The rate of violent crime has fallen by almost half from its peak in the early 1990s. Many neighborhoods that were once in the grip of gangs and drugs and violence are now vibrant places, where kids can play in the park and parents can enjoy a walk after sunset without fear. … But in the last two years, we’ve seen clear warning signs—like the first gusts of wind before a summer storm—that this progress is now at risk,” he said. 

“The latest FBI official data tell us that from 2014 to 2015, the violent crime rate in the U.S. increased by more than 3 percent—the largest one-year increase since 1991. The murder rate increased 11 percent—the largest increase since 1968. The rape rate increased by over 4 percent, and the aggravated assault rate rose by nearly 4 percent. If this was a one-year spike, we might not worry too much. But the preliminary data for the first half of 2016 confirmed these trends.  The number of violent crimes in the first half of last year was more than 5 percent higher than the same period in 2015. The number of murders was also up 5 percent over the same period the year before, and aggravated assaults rose as well. … These numbers should trouble all of us.  My worry is that this is not a ‘blip’ or an anomaly, but the start of a dangerous new trend that could reverse the hard-won gains of the past four decades—gains that made America a safer and more prosperous place. … As someone who lived through that dark time in our history, and dealt with its consequences every day as a prosecutor, I can assure you: We do not want to go back to those days. We cannot risk giving up all we have achieved in our fight against crime,” he declared.

His answer is greater federal involvement in law enforcement, fewer constraints and apparently less accountability for police and another war on crime and drugs.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been a constant Warner to our community about what would happen if we could not and would not curb the violence that devastates the lives of Black people. He also recently warned the president against an all-out assault on Black America in the name of fighting crime, saying Blacks in America are no longer a forgotten people. We are a people today chosen and protected by God Himself. You can take it or let it alone.

But a warning can only benefit the one who heeds the warning and obeys the cry of the one who sees danger on the near horizon. It is a disgrace that we slaughter one another. It is shame that we destroy one another while God came to save us. It is imperative that we understand the time and what we all must do to curb the violence. Otherwise we are only looking at the beginning of sorrows—and the beginning of sorrows should be enough for a change in our hearts and lives.

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