By Marshall Hatch,
Senior Pastor New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church
Chicago is fast reclaiming the title of America ’s capital of murder and mayhem. In the last three weekends, the city had over one-hundred shootings and eighteen murders. Chicago has become “Kill-cago”, and city violence has again become a national story. What’s really going on Chicago ? Why is the Second city the lead story in urban violence? When we look at the facts, Chicago is the ultimate “too city”.
One, the public educational system is too dysfunctional. With a price tag of almost six billion dollars a year, Chicago Public Schools graduate less than half of its students. Only six of every one hundred high school grads graduate from a four year college or university in four years. This year’s education agenda? We are looking at longer school days, no major curriculum overhaul, and a possible teacher’s strike. We have political gamesmanship, failing schools, and ill-equipped young people roaming the streets.
Two, black communities are disconnected from the real political dynamic of the city. Over the last decade, Chicago lost 180,000 blacks. The old public housing ring around the Loop was dismantled, and formerly stable black communities were disrupted and disoriented by an influx of poor people and a middle class exodus. In the regime change from Daley to Emanuel, black leadership was sidelined and remains handpicked by the real power brokers. Black communities are left reeling without the have natural processes of leadership development that would allow self-determination. These communities are the epicenters of the city’s murder and mayhem.
Three, city law enforcement apparatus is too parochial. Police personnel are recruited through historic processes of nepotism and cronyism, and the Chicago Police Department lacks the cultural diversity reflected in all of the city’s communities. There are great officers, for sure, but law enforcement resembles an occupying force in minority communities. Community policing is a practical impossibility when officers are culturally distinctive from the community.
Four, economic disparities and the impact of public policies are too wide among the city’s neighborhoods. The rich neighborhoods in Chicago are insulated and very rich, poor hoods are isolated and very poor. The middle classes are squeezed by high taxes, plummeting home values, fees and fines, parking meters, “gotcha” tickets, and a general higher cost for lower standards of living. Fractured families that were already hurting are hurting an awful lot more. As we have seen, that pain will be difficult to contain in hurting neighborhoods.
Five, our metro region circulates too many hand guns that are found used in inner city crimes. Great Barrington , Illinois has a large gun distributor in the same community as a large church. Suburban gun shops are suppliers of arms used in urban crimes. Guns alone don’t kill people, but sick people with convenient access to handguns do. Since we don’t see our region as one big community, we don’t tighten laws to cut off the spigot of handguns for gangs and the lawless.
Finally, Chicago ’s faith community’s clergy voices are too compromised to credibly speak truth to power. Sadly, our pastors get little respect. When clergy with institutional bases are too tied in with secular power and lack courage, poor and powerless people suffer without an effective advocate in the power dynamic. Eventually, everyone suffers when there are no prophets in the town. In Chicago , there are no credible, spiritual voices with the ability to call the leaders and the people into account.
What Chicago needs most are restored values and a vision that includes all the people and every neighborhood. That kind of vision will always lead us to caring for the needs of the most vulnerable citizens first. Resources must be placed where they are needed most. In the city, the pathologies of the culture of poverty cannot be contained. No neighborhood will be entirely safe, until every neighborhood is safe.
Marshall Hatch, Senior Pastor
New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church ( West Garfield Park )