Stanley Crouch: The blood keeps flowing in Chicago
There are big blues blowing in from Chicago, bringing with them low- quality public education too dangerous to become accustomed to, gun violence and hip-hop derived from gangster posturing that is silly, though the bullets are real.
Earlier this winter, we all were horrified by the death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who had performed at events surrounding President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. She returned to Chicago only to be sent to her death by an airhead gangster’s bullet. First lady Michelle Obama attended the sorrowful funeral.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to find the killer, saying of Hadiya: “She had dreams. And this gangbanger, this punk, took them away.”
But it will take a lot more than words, no matter how heartfelt those words may be.
Emanuel is now creating a dust-up by aiming to close 61 schools attended by 30,000 mostly black kids in grades kindergarten through eighth. There are likely good financial reasons for this, but as the Chicago Tribune noted, “(the) announcement means only that (children are) being displaced from familiar neighborhood schools and will face in some cases longer — and scarier — walks to class over busy streets that crisscross competing gang territories.”
Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who led a crippling strike earlier in the school year, dismissed his plan as bunk.
“We are looking at murdering jobs, we are looking at murdering schools, and we’ve got a murder problem in the city,” Lewis said, seeming to apply the worst motives possible to Emanuel.
So it goes in the Windy City. Chicago got that nickname, by the way, not because of the winds off Lake Michigan, but because its residents had famously big mouths. Well, see how much good talking is doing these days.
Say what you will about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at least he gets some things done. Many make fun of his “nanny state” policies, like curbing smoking and trying — and, sadly, failing — to limit the size of sodas.
But those are small-ball compared with his leadership on the issue that plagues Chicago today: guns. Since the Newtown, Conn., shooting, nobody has shown more honesty, courage and conviction about needing to get guns off our streets. The man is not necessarily eloquent. But he means everything he says. And he uses facts like incendiary ammunition.
In fact, Bloomberg put $2 million into a Chicago congressional race to make sure that a pro-gun Democrat didn’t end up taking Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former seat. His quest proved successful — and he aims to replicate it elsewhere around the nation, doing for the forces of light with his money what too many wealthy do for the dark side.
Standing with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Newtown victims’ families, Bloomberg said last week: “The only question is whether Congress will have the courage to do the right thing or whether they will allow more innocent people, including innocent children, to be gunned down.”
True, counting on Congress is like spitting into the wind: The elephants already have doomed the assault-weapons ban (with some Democrats’ help), and they will surely do the same with universal background checks, if given the chance. But they might be as afraid of Bloomberg’s billions as they are of anything. He knows that, too. And that knowledge surely gives him strength.
For now, though, the killings just keep rising like the guillotine did during the French Revolution. Earlier this month in Chicago, 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins was on her father’s lap when someone opened fire on the minivan in which they were sitting. The baby died.
It will take courage to bring about change. For those who do not know, courage and compassion love the dance of life in which they go together.
Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.