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July 07, 2020

ALL Black Lives Should Matter

Nine children under the age of 18 have been shot dead in Chicago since June 20 (NY Times).

Most of these children were Black or Hispanic. Where are the protests? Since the beginning of the year, according to the same NY Times article, at least 336 people, mostly people of color, have been murdered in Chicago. Their lives matter just as much as those who are killed by police. Their lives were lost because of too little effective policing; not too much. These are the Black lives that seem not to matter to protestors.

“People who have lost faith in the police are more prone to settle scores on their own, experts said. ‘The lack of trust, the lack of confidence in police and the lack of willingness to use police, I think is going to have a broader effect,’ said Mr. Abt.” Thomas Abt is a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice and one author of the nationwide homicide study by Arnold Ventures.

We don’t really need experts to tell us that gangs rule where the police don’t. This is not a racial phenomenon; see the movie Gangs of New York for the bloody story of Irish gangs in the underpoliced parts of that city in the beginning of the 20th century.  Also see many modern Mexican cities where peace only comes for as long as one cartel is in firm control. And weep for the Afghanis under the “protection” of one warlord or another.

The constant threat of violence and terrible schools (another subject for another day) trap people in both poverty and poor neighborhoods. Joining gangs is often the only means of survival, let alone relative prosperity. The cycle is self-perpetuating.

Gangs don’t run prisons, halfway houses, or believe in due process. Punishment for infractions of their rules range from severe maiming to death by torture of their enemies and perhaps the enemy’s family, especially if the family is likely to take its own vengeance in turn.

Establishing effective policing in an area dominated by gang violence is extremely difficult, even if there isn’t distrust of the police themselves.

“The city [Chicago] needs to do more to protect witnesses, said Rev. Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church. ‘People want to tell, but they are afraid,’ Rev. Acree told a community meeting that he organized to discuss the shootings, adding that people approach him repeatedly about doing the right thing. They tell him, he said, ‘I want to go to heaven, but I do not want to go this week.’” In other words, people must believe the police are in control and can protect them before the police can expect any local cooperation. A small pickup in police activity won’t help; there must be a surge of policing. The police must become the toughest gang in town… without resorting to gang tactics.

When I was young man in Chicago, the police were a disgrace and a menace. We National Guardsmen ended up teargassing cops during the 1968 Democratic Convention when they tried to attack demonstrators. The Kerner Commission documented what they correctly called a “police riot”. This was a lily-white police force under Mayor Richard J. Daley.

It would have been inconceivable then that Chicago would have a Black mayor and a Black police chief and an integrated police force as it does today. When this police force takes back control of the under-policed parts of the city, where the majority of killings happen, the majority of people arrested will be people of color just as the majority of people being killed today are people of color. The predictable arrest statistic cannot be a reason not to take action, even in a time of heightened racial awareness. The predictable continued killing without police control is an overwhelming reason for the Black-led and integrated police force to do the job they must do in the deadliest parts of the Black mayor’s city.

The reassertion of police control won’t work if it becomes license for the police brutality which Chicago police used to be notorious for and a terrible example of which rightfully triggered the latest protests. The police force must demonstrate that it will not tolerate lawlessness in its own ranks. There will be justified uses of violence; there will also be incidents of unjustified violence. The police should face scrutiny both when the violence is justified and when it is simply brutality; the police must earn trust by policing their own.

I’ve written about Chicago because its murder statistics are worse than most other American cities and there is good documentation of the city’s agony in the NY Times article I’ve quoted; but murder rates are up throughout the nation. According to NBC correspondent @Tom_Winter quoting the New York Police Department, all murder victims in NY in June and everyone who was shot so far in July (almost 100) were “of the minority community”. Any community which is denied effective police protection is denied its inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As important as it is to wave a flag against police brutality and remember its victims, no one can claim to really believe Black Lives Matter unless he or she believes that ALL Black Lives Matter.

See also: Fear Leads to Fascism

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