This week we celebrated the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day Barack Obama was inaugurated. Martin Luther King would be proud. Not only had the nation elected a black man president, but we re-elected him.
King would be happy with the steps our nation has taken. More blacks have opportunities to succeed. Blacks who have received an education have been able to translate that education into opportunities for themselves and their families. There is a vibrant black middle class that mirrors the American middle class. We work hard to give our children a good place to live, a quality education and opportunities to succeed as adults. We save for retirement. We stress about taxes. We are looking for opportunities to take the next step in our careers and life.
Although there is more work to do– we are underrepresented in corporate America for example– the blood spilled by Dr. King, Medgar Evers, and thousands of others in the 50's and 60's has given my generation the opportunity to get a quality education, have a career and buy a home in any neighborhood we can afford to live in. The opportunity to do these three basic things didn’t exist for blacks when Dr. King walked with us.
So even with the opportunities fought for two generations ago, Dr. King would not be happy if he were here. If he were alive today, he’d be downright upset.
Chicago had 506 homicides last year. The majority of those deaths were on the south and west sides, where blacks gunned down other blacks.
There has been criticism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for their failure to be able to stem the violence. But blaming the mayor and the police is utterly ridiculous. Unless Emanuel and McCarthy leave their homes every weekend and shoot black children on the south and west sides, placing blame on them– rather than the shooter– will just allow the problem to get worse.
Part of the problem is us: Black America. Our leaders (with notable exceptions, like Pastor Corey Brooks and educator Tim King) have been silent too long and now we’re in a position where violence in our neighborhoods is worse than Afghanistan.
In his 2008 book, What Would Martin Say?, Clarence B. Jones spoke about issues facing Black America and gave his take on what his old friend and mentor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., would say about those ills. With respect to Black leadership, Jones wrote:
At a time when the nation’s streets are black killing fields– with blacks killing blacks by the dozens every week for no rational reason– the leadership appears concerned only with what might get hem on television; and apparently twenty more gangstas shot down last Saturday night is just another dog-bites-man, old-news story unworthy of mention. If America’s black leadership truly had black America’s best interests in mind, that’s the issue the leaders would address.
Jones is right– our “leadership” must address the constant killing in our community. How come when two football rivals in DuPage County meet for a big game, the play on the field gets news, but when two basketball rivals go at it in Chicago, the shooting death of a Black teenager gets attention? Why are our children are bringing guns to basketball games? Who is parenting these kids?
I imagine Martin Luther King and the thousands of others who fought to get us rights to do basic things– like eating a meal at the same counter as a white man, being able to sit in the front of a bus or having the ability to get a quality education-- would be pissed if they knew that their struggle and their sacrifice has not only led to genocide in our neighborhoods but Black “leaders” lack of accountability for that genocide.
Why are our children killing our children? What did we do wrong? What is our responsibility for the violence?
These are the questions we need to sit down and discuss. But to do so, we must look in the mirror. Our we parenting our children? We can’t have a conversation about our kids dying in the street without discussion whether we have done something to put them there. Until we decide to parent our children and try to guide them to a better place in life– through preaching and more importantly through example– unfortunately, we will continue to see body counts rise on the south and west sides of Chicago.
This isn’t what Martin Luther King fought for. Why aren’t we fighting harder to stop it?