Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Night In Chicago

I came across the above video looking at gang violence in Chicago and it broke my heart to see it.  I currently live in a working class neighbourhood, that is slowly being gentrified.   When I first bought my home, my co-workers warned me that my neighbourhood was not a good one for raising children.  I will admit that the nearest school is not great, which is why my children go to the French board, but my neighbours and I look out for each other and in the 10 years that we have lived here, I have never feared violence.

I have seen the young kids walking down my street, full of youthful bravado, pretending to be tough, and I have remarked to my unhusband, that these punks don’t know what tough is.   I have no experience with the kind of violence that is happening in these Chicago neighbourhoods, because my parents lived in a solidly middle class area and as an adult I have always been able to ensure that I have lived in safe areas. 

It saddens me to think of a 13 year old boy who is too scared to play outside, when my children live outdoors and feel safe and secure.   I have never in my life heard a gun shot, and have only actually seen a gun in the hands of a police officer.  This is not say that guns don’t end up in the hands of criminals in Canada, it is simply a reflection of the fact that we do not have a glorification of gun culture here.  This is also not to say that gangs and illegal drugs don’t exist here, but our crime rates are lower.

The following are facts listed in “No Excuse for Gun Violence,” and article written by Julianne Malveaux:

  1. approximately 2,500 Black youth 15-24 who die each year from gun homicide.
  2. African American youth are more likely than any other group of young people to be killed by guns.
  3. an African American youth is 18 times more likely to die in a firearms homicide than a white youth. And for every youngster killed by a gun four are injured.

Wherever reports exist regarding the gun violence in the African-American community, two factors repeatedly arise:  poverty, and an easy access to weapons.  I am not suggesting that all poor people are violent, but I do believe that there is a connection between the state of hopelessness that arises out of living in poverty and gang violence.  When young kids look around and they see no positive role models, and see that no matter how hard their parents work that they cannot seem to get ahead, it makes the gang life and the easy money that comes as a result of criminal behaviour seem appealing.

The mere fact that in some areas it is easier to buy a gun than open a bank account should be a trigger warning.  I know that many believe that guns don’t kill people and that people kill people; however, that little platitude can only really be believed when it is not your sons and daughters being shot down in the streets.  Perhaps for the U.S., it has already reached the point of no return regarding regulating weapons, but a real effort is not being made to get these guns off of the street.  This is what your right to bear arms has wrought.  These guns are being used to hunt people and I highly doubt that the framers of your constitution could even invasion the kind of weaponry that we are capable of building today.  Their right to bear arms considered muskets, and to act like the constitution is such a perfect document that it does not require updating when society has continued to evolve is incredibly obtuse.

I am not an American citizen -- but I am a citizen of the African Diaspora and when I see so many of youth laid to waste because they have been cast aside it breaks my heart both as a Black woman and as a mother.   I know that each day some Black mother is sitting in a funeral home weeping over the potential lost from her womb.  Black women have yet to reach the point whenwe can stop crying in pain over our babies -- and I don’t know that I will ever see that day in my lifetime.

This is not the kind of post that well ever appear with frequency or urgency on a feminist blog, because most White feminist fail to see how Black women are connected to the violence both perpetrated by and on Black men.  We cannot afford to disconnect ourselves because they are our sons, fathers and brothers.  We are bound by blood, love, and race and therefore,  a Black woman cannot  see these connections as casual.   Since the violence very much effects Black women, this issue must become a woman’s issue.   Violence cannot only be conceived of as violence against women, it must be understood as violence committed by those we love and violence committed against the people we love, because the end result, is that our lives are irrevocably impacted. 

I know that some will feel that this approach diffuses women’s issues to focus on Black men and to that I say, White women have always acted in concert with White men to oppress POC, and it is a debt owed to our community, that you work to undo some of the damage your desire to possess racial privilege has caused.  The men that are dying are seen largely as disposable except by their mothers, daughters, and sisters, who weep at their passing.  If you cannot speak about this issue from the point of view of ending the violence caused by racism and poverty, then do so with a woman’s heart from the position of drying the tears of a grieving motherhood.  Fight for our sons, brothers, and fathers and then perhaps I will believe there is some solidarity, because we will not be separated from them.