In 2016, that word can conjure up multiple meanings and energies—a tale of two cities, if you will. Let the news tell it, Chicago is an irreparable war zone, and its inhabitants are either victims or criminals. Meanwhile, the political elite speak as if they are outsiders to the equation.
Chicago has had more homicides this year alone than Los Angeles and New York combined. Add to that an unhealthy media spin, and the political narrative is that Chitown is lawless and can only be fixed by more blue uniforms and red tape. Somehow, this great city, home to amazing landmarks and history, is in dire need of more blanket laws, even though virtually every gun-control restriction known to man is already on the books.
And while concealed carry has just recently become legal in Chicago, politicians would have us believe the city’s residents couldn't possibly benefit from firearm education and training. This is the story we were told about Chicago, and that’s why we took the Black Guns Matter firearm safety tour there last week.
Our time here had to double as educational and investigative, with open minds ready to learn.The Black Guns Matter tour focuses on places that political “divisionaries” tend to believe can only be helped by more police power, because they think that is a solution. An actual answer, which is outside of the current thinking, is the availability of more firearm training for citizens to defend themselves and deter crime. The problem with just “hiring more police” in areas where residents have had horrible relationships with law enforcement is the “solution’s” government-dependent nature. This band-aid approach points to the same root cause—lack of understanding.
At Black Guns Matter, what we know about urban areas—because we are from urban areas—is that traditionally we have been handled with a very outdated and improper approach: that approach being as if we are entire communities of “enemy combatants,” not small numbers of criminals tremendously affecting the citizens at large. It’s our knowledge from experience. If those politicians think that the problems in “Chiraq” can be fixed with this repetitive approach, success would be a surprise to us.
Still, we went to Chicago with open minds, honestly thinking, “What if we're wrong?” We are from these ’hoods and have in-depth experience from our respective cities, but that’s not enough to know if its the same in this particular city. We had to get on the ground floor with the people of Chicago and see. See why officers and the community aren't able to figure this out. See if negative portions of gang culture have permeated to a point of no return. See what the community has to say, and listen to them. Our time here had to double as educational and investigative, with open minds ready to learn.
What we learned was this: Some residents view the criminals and the police in the same way. They said that the police and criminals seem to think alike. The irony of that statement is both law enforcement and criminals profess disdain for one another. Both sides go out of their way to make it known that they are “nothing like those guys”—each side expressing a set of standards, and their strict adherence to those standards.
On first glance it would seem that way, but the citizens of Chicago showed us parallels. The people who came to our class shared how they felt forgotten by political opportunists and lied to via media manipulation, while at the same time feeling like unsafe outsiders in the communities in which they live. These were their experiences—no third parties needed. They expressed how they're not rich enough to buy their peace of mind, and not quite powerful enough to get out from under the boot of political vultures. They just came to the class to find out how they can start doing more for themselves.In truth, the type of change necessary for urban areas to improve starts with the rock, the hard place and all citizens challenging themselves.
This is exactly why firearm education and training is the perfect fit. It isn’t too expensive, and no high-reaching connections are needed—just the will to study, work, learn and apply that information if the need arises. That’s not a difficult task for these strong, hard-working people who seem very forthcoming. But they shared how it also seemed as if they were used to being presented with convoluted information and being told to “leave it to the government.” They believe that advice is useless, and that they can advance exponentially with different options.
This was the general theme from their mouths to our ears, and a bigger picture was forming for us. These same good people were being hamstrung on one side by the establishment, while also being hung out to dry by laws designed to block them from defending themselves. They are seemingly stuck between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" of criminals on one side, and on the other, certain elements of law enforcement who've been fed the same lie from the media that this town is nothing but crime-ridden. Having been spun the same message so consistently, some of the tactics and gang mentality of "get them before they get me" have been the go-to action for some on both sides of the law. And these go-to actions haven’t taken into account the good people caught up in the middle.
In truth, the type of change necessary for urban areas to improve starts with the rock, the hard place and all citizens challenging themselves.
Gang members: I challenge you all to re-evaluate your present actions within our communities. Securing neighborhoods and creating a sense of family is one thing, but carelessness for others in our community is another. Your actions are counterproductive and directly play into the hands of politicians who get rich from dividing, conquering and incarcerating. Most have forgotten (or never knew) the meaning of CRIP: Community Restoration In Progress; and BLOOD: Brotherly Love Overcoming Oppressive Domination. Are you standing for these definitions? Or are you a puppet?
Officers: I challenge you all to re-evaluate your present role within our communities. Consider your reason for joining the force. Did you sign up to make mandatory arrests, control and patrol? Not one self-respecting officer feels the job is ticketing and labeling American citizens as potential threats. That mentality is why the people of Chicago have drawn this parallel. If your service is about peacekeeping, de-escalating conflict and protecting the people from the true scumbags, then the code of conduct will reflect as such. That’s how we can affect positive change on the ground. If not, you are also being used as a puppet by the political elite.
The people: I challenge you all to no longer accept government dependency, election-year promises and fear as a way of life. This holds even more true because we are responsible for correcting criminals, removing political vultures and policing ourselves. We determine our destiny by wresting power back into our hands. For us—the people—this is what we must do to truly make Chicago, and all of America, matter.