I had begun go write this post (in a slightly different variation) the other day but as things would have it, other news events, notably the Zimmerman trial and its aftermath got in the way.
Then there’s also my effort to clean up my emails when I went on mental sabbatical although I’ve got that down to under 5700 and have set a goal for myself of reading them all by Labor Day. I’m attacking them in most current date of receipt first – so don’t be surprised if a month or so from now, I comment on a post you put up in March. This is a challenge as I get 60 – 80 new ones per day and those also need attention.
Well, back to the post. The reason that it came back to mind was a news story about my former home town of Chicago and a vote of the City council – but we’ll get to that.
A few blocks from my home in Chicago was a wonderful deli, The Flying Lox Box. Absolutely terrific pastrami and no ambiance anywhere in sight. Not only was it a favorite of many who lived in the east part of Hyde Park, it was a preferred lunch stop for some of Chicago’s finest who patrolled the area. Between the University of Chicago police and the CPD, we had a lot of law enforcement patrolling the area. As a result of all this patrolling, the neighborhood had a reputation as being one of the safest places to live in the city.
Of course, there’s always some ungrateful cretin out there who asks a question like, “If it’s so safe, why do we need all these police?” There’s simply no pleasing some people.
Over time, some friends and I got to know a number of the police patrons at “The Box” as we affectionately had abbreviated its name. One of those was a sergeant who had the girth of a Jackie Gleason and the wit of a Robin Williams. We loved it when Sgt. Adolph (his first name) would regale us with stories of his 28 years on the force. There was no question that if he hadn’t gone in to law enforcement he could have had a successful career in stand up comedy.
As I was nibbling at my dill pickle and picking at the pastrami that exuded from the overstuffed rye bread, he told me and the friends whom I had met for lunch at the deli about a call to which his car was dispatched when he was early on in his career with the force. It was a call that he didn’t want to get because it was a matter of domestic violence which had occurred at the Cabrini-Green housing projects.
While Cabrini-Green was not the most violent of Chicago’s ghetto housing projects, (that distinction belonged to Robert Taylor Homes), it was right up there in the top three. At the outskirts of Cabrini-Green was one of the best rib joints in Chicago – Farmer Brown’s, which was a business owned by a black family.
When you walked into Farmer Brown’s you noticed there were no tables. The business was take out only. And it was hard to miss the foot thick plexi-glass which extended from the top of the counter to the ceiling to prevent armed robbery. After placing your order, the person who had taken it would push out a long, deep metal tray into which you dropped your money. They would give you your change in that same tray and a few minutes later your order would be packaged and dropped in the tray as well.
Apparently, the owners deemed this method of doing business prudent after the third time they were robbed and one of their employees shot – though, thankfully, not fatally.
So that was the environment near Cabrini-Green and the monochrome, cheaply constructed buildings housed even worse. No cop wanted to go there because there was a high probability that answering a call in the projects would result either in a medical leave from the force or a funeral.
But my friend Adolph and his partner responded, as was their duty, to the call. Ms. Smith had reported that her boy friend was “beatin on her.”
When the two of them got to the Smith apartment, they knocked on the door and identified themselves as CPD, Ms. Smith quickly opened the door and let them in. They could see that she had indeed been beaten. The area around her left eye was severely swollen and she had a cut in her skin which she was trying to stop from bleeding with a kitchen towel.
“Ms. Smith, do you know who did this to you,?” Adolph asked.
She said, “I told the oprator it was my boyfriend, Lavell.”
“Do you know where Lavell is now?”
“He in the bedroom. He drunk an I think he pass out.”
“In order for us to arrest him, it will be necessary for you to come with us down to the police station, give us the details of what happened and to file a complaint against him,” Adolph said.
“You mean you gwyne arrest him?”
“Oh, no, no, no. Don’t do dat. I don’t wan Lavell arrested.”
“Well, ma’am, that’s what we have to do. He obviously beat you. Has this ever happened before?”
“Cupola times – but not so bad as dis.”
“Well, ma’am, it seems like Lavell is a violent man and is going to keep on beating you if we don’t put him away. Don’t you see that?”
“Yeah, but he don’t beat me so frequent – mebbe evry cupola months.”
“Ma’am, if you don’t want us to arrest him, why did you call? What is it that you want us to do?”
Ms. Smith looked at Adolph and his partner. As he described it, a sheepish grin came over her face and she said, “Mek him say, he love me.” And she drew out the word love for a few seconds.
As Adolph concluded the story, I think all of us who heard it were stunned that any human being would react the way Ms. Smith did in this situation. But we were not so shocked when we heard the P. S. to this night in Cabrini-Green.
It appeared that Lavell was not only Ms. Smith’s boyfriend. He was her pimp. She was one of twelve young women in his stable. And a year later, when he tried to expand his business empire into drugs, was found shot dead – a bullet through his head.
I have often thought that in order to understand another person, her thinking, her dreams, her motivations you had to be that person –if only for one day. When I hear stories like this one, I cannot even begin to fathom how the Ms. Smiths of the world see their lives. Do they know there is more out there than whoring and being beaten? Or is their universe so circumscribed and limited because they are merely doing the same thing that everyone around them is doing and experiencing the same thing that everyone whom they know experiences?
There was a very good reason that in the deep South before the Civil War, all states which permitted slavery expressly forbade that a slave be given an education. An ignorant population was an easily manipulated and controllable population. If you look at the literacy rates and the number of high school dropouts within our urban black ghettos, not much educational progress has been made since those days.
There is virtually no way out of this cycle of economic and moral depravity for the women who were born there – and for the men the only paths are pro sports, becoming a drug dealer or pimp or having a career as a rap or hip hop star. So when we hear comments from our pro stars that could well have been uttered by the late Lavell, are we surprised at the sorry truth of the statement, “You can take the boy out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the boy?”
What we need to do in this country is forget this nonsense about racism – because it is not racism with which we are dealing. What we have is a problem in classism and those who have created this problem through their policies (primarily whites) do not want to acknowledge their failure; and for those who are black and middle class. business people and professionals. the pain of realizing but for the Grace of God, they might also be another statistic on the police blotter of one of our major cities is too frightening and so they too ignore the problem.
Though I have no evidence to support this, I doubt that among either the black or white congregants who will amass at the behest of Massa Al Sharpton this weekend, armed with signs and hoodies to protest “American injustice” you will find many who will leave those rallies and return to their hospital, resuming their duties as an ER physician or go to work in their own small business. I suspect that most of those involved in the rallies have no work to which they could go, (and quite probably have no desire for a change in their unemployment status).
They are the manipulated but they are so undereducated I believe that they honestly feel they are pursuing a God-like and virtuous cause. As did those who stood in front of the guillotine as the nobility were dispatched from this world one by one. And they cheered and held up the severed heads and celebrated – until there were no more of the oppressive upper class to murder and so the Angel of Death expanded its grip on the mob and turned on them as their heads fell into the basket.
We live in an “instantaneous gratification” world. But problems that are deep-rooted in decades of history cannot be resolved with the stroke of a legislative pen – no matter how brilliant or well-meaning the author. A people that has been in bondage may have their shackles removed, but it will take time for them to understand how to live as free men and women – and to understand what society expects of them.
But if we continue to address the symptoms rather than trying to find a cure for the disease, we merely momentarily assuage the problem – but will never eliminate it. And that brings me to the City of Chicago’s council meeting today.
“The Chicago city council voted unanimously on Wednesday to toughen its existing ban on assault weapons by adding more types of guns to the banned list and imposing stiffer fines for violations of the law.“
In 2012, Chicago recorded 532 murders – an all time high. Do you know how many of those were committed with “assault weapons?” None. Do you know how many fines were collected for violating the gun ordinances that were on the books? None.
So a thinking person might reasonably ask, “If a particular form of firearm is not being used in the commission of murders, why would banning other instruments of that same class help reduce the number of homicides that are occurring? And if the City is not collecting fines for the illegal possession of guns, how will raising the amount of the fines contribute to a better, safer community?”
Unfortunately, this kind of mindless thinking is not limited to Chicago. It is rife throughout America today. And while the people who pass these sorts of ordinances are stupid, it is we, the electorate who vote them into office and who keep them there who are truly the dumb ones.