Why Chicago Is Under Fire

For the greater part of this year the city of Chicago has been under the national spotlight over its skyrocketing homicide rate. Within the first three months of 2012 homicides were up 66% in Chicago. This year Chicago has had the highest murder rate amongst Alpha world cities with 19.4 murders per 100,000. This rate is more then New York (6.0) and more than Los Angeles (7.5), and ahead of Mexico City, Moscow, and São Paulo. As mayor Rahm Emanuel struggled to get a grip on the rise in crime he reverted to the age old solution of more policing. On August 31st Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy steped it up a notch by calling for federal assistance to help in the fight against the wave of crime and violence that has taken hold of the city. The federal assistance consists of U.S. Marshals, FBI agents, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The Mayor and superintendent’s plans for the federal assistance is to concentrate on the neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest this year by homicides. “The help comes in the form of additional agents to target guns, gangs and drugs,” Superintendent McCarthy stated at the conferences.

While the mayor sends federal agents out to Chicago’s hardest hit neighborhoods he continues to neglect the fact that these are temporary solutions to the symptoms of a greater problem, poverty. This is a fact that is not just neglected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel but by all media and governmental officials. Time and time again the problem of crime and violence is thrown on gangs and drugs. It is also common to hear dismissive terms such as “senseless violence” as if to say the homicides in Chicago are happening just because or without reason. But there is a cause and it’s not gangs and drugs but poverty and where there is poverty you will obviously find scarcity (lack of resource). Failure to recognize this fact is detrimental to human society because it presupposes that there are no borderline causes for peoples actions. Hence in the case of crime in America and around the world, punishment is the only solution presented when dealing with aberrant behavior.  It would profit mayor Rahm Emanuel far more to take a team of behavioral scientist to the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago to analyze the conditions which his citizens are living under that produces such behavior as opposed to a team of federal agents.  As obvious as 1+1=2, it is equally as obvious that poverty + scarcity = violence or in the case of Chicago homicide.

Looking at the public health statistic in the city of Chicago’s data portal you will find that the numbers in regards to poverty and homicide are consistent.

Top Three Impoverished Chicago Neighborhoods

  • Riverdale, 61% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 37
  • Fuller Park, 56% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,000) 63
  • Englewood, 42% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 48

If you reverse the numbers you will see little to no homicides in the neighborhoods with the lowest poverty rates.

Top Three Least Impoverished Neighborhoods

  • Mount Greenwood, 3% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 2
  • Edison Park, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 0
  • Beverly, 5% impoverished, homicide rate (per 100,00) 5

These statics are just a glimpse into what scientific studies have proven for decades and that is humans are products of there environment. No matter where you go in the world, from Compton to the Upper East Side of Manhattan or from the United States to Africa you will find these statics to be true. As long as we continue to pretend that crime is a result of people being lazy and not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps then crime will never be reduced in a significant way.

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Revolution over Reform

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

-JFK

 

Looking at the world today with all its war, poverty, and disease it would be an understatement to say that we need a serious change in the world. This without a doubt, regardless of how far left or far right you may be in your political views, is something that we can all agree on. The unfortunate divide happens when we begin talking about what kinds of changes are necessary in order to change the world for the better. Ultimately, all ideologies aside, it boils down to one question. Do we want reform or revolution? I for one am for revolution, but what does that actually mean?

Throughout the centuries when one speaks of a revolution it is commonly associated with the violent overthrow of the current established government. But revolution is not an action; it is a process towards a tangible change whether it is in your personal life, community, society or world. That’s all revolution is, change. It is not to say that the associations with violent overthrow of governments are not true but it is important to understand the circumstances which produce the violent overthrow. It has been argued whether or not nonviolent revolution is possible and over all it is. We currently live in a top down hierarchical society in which we are all subject to the will of those higher up on the food chain of human life (C.E.O.’s, managers, politicians, etc.) where decisions are continuously made without the consent of those that will be the most affected by them.

In the case of a nonviolent revolution if people were no longer satisfied with living under this society they could began organizing themselves by pulling their resources together to create institutions that reflect their new found values. People could create institutions that are operated in a cooperative fashion in which a store, for example, is cooperatively owned and democratically managed by its workers. This form of organization would inevitably bring an end to the top down hierarchical model of institutions.  As this form of organization begins to spread amongst the people one of two things will happen. Either the proponents of the current established order will recognize the movement of the people and accept this new form of organization or the current established order will use whatever means necessary to preserve its self. Historically the latter prevails and it is at this junction that the violent overthrow begins.  It is not violence for the sake of violence on behalf of the revolutionary. Almost every “violent revolution” in human history was provoked by the established orders inability to recognize and accept the new found wave of values that was approaching them. Revolution is not inherently violent neither are so called revolutionaries. As stated earlier those who call for revolution are simply calling for a complete change in how society is operated.

On the other hand as opposed to revolution there is reform. Those who are for reform do recognize the faults in the current social structure but believe that these faults can be resolved without a complete removal of the current social structure. In the case of reform the current established order remains intact with only a few minnow alterations in regards to how it operates. The issue with reform is that typically it only benefits those of the generation that is currently seeking the reform. But has no tangible effect on the generations preceding it because by that time the established order has already figured out a way around the reform. If not completely removing it all together on that grounds that the reform has done its job in straitening up society and is no longer necessary. In essence reform is merely the same old thing in a different way.

In the case of the United States,  since 1776 we have had thousands of reforms yet here you are reading this blog trying to figure out why life and society is so flawed and what you can do about. Malcolm X summed up reform the best in the case of the desegregation reforms that were put into law in the 1950’s. He stated, “It’s a victory with no victory. It’s a victory that you can talk about but a victory that you can’t show me.” The truth is that more people then are willing to admit are for revolution but are afraid to admit it publicly because of the association of violence that is attached to it. I for one am not afraid to admit to that I am for a revolution in society. How about you?

Stand Your Ground Law: What It Is And Why It Must Go

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder many questions have arised. Of them all, the number one question has been, why has George Zimmerman not been arrested for the murder of Trayvon. Answer, the “stand your ground law”. It is at this moment that the second most asked question is posed, what’s the “stand your ground law”!? The “stand your ground” law permits the use of deadly force without duty to retreat, when there is reasonable belief of a threat. The law also provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action. One of the major flaws with the “stand your ground” law is the absence of duty to retreat. In criminal law, duty to retreat is an integral part in the defense of self-defense because the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he or she were acting reasonably. For example, in states that do not have the “stand your ground” law, if you kill an individual and now stand trial, to claim justifiable homicide on the grounds of self-defense you must show that you made an attempt to avoid the conflict and secondly made a reasonable attempt to retreat before using force. If you can not prove this, than your claim of justifiable homicide may be dismissed. Therein lies the problem with the “stand your ground” law because duty to retreat does not apply hence the name “stand your ground”. Just over a year ago in Florida, Trevor Dooley, a 71-year-old retired bus driver and 41-year-old David James got into an argument at the local park over a kid skateboarding on the basketball court. David James allegedly lunges at Trevor Dooley and Dooley shoots David in the heart, killing him in front of David’s 8-year-old daughter. Trevor Dooley never stood trial for what was otherwise the murder of David James. It must be reiterated, had Trevor Dooley stood trial he would have had to prove that he made an attempt to avoid the conflict and a reasonable attempt to retreat. Why was Trevor at the park with a gun to begin with? Was Trevor the aggressor? Guess we’ll never know because he’s protected by the “stand your ground” law. Above all the most crippling aspect of the stand your ground law, as stated earlier, is that once granted it provides immunity from prosecution and civil action.

CHAPTER 776
JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE
776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force.
This is the dilemma currently present in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Despite all the facts against George Zimmerman, he has already been granted immunity from prosecution and conviction of any type due to the “stand your ground” law. Without the pressure of mass protest on our elected officials there is essentially nothing that can be done to Zimmerman under this law and that is precisely why the law must be abolished. Since the “stand your ground” law has been enacted, in the latter year of 2005, claims of justifiable homicide in Florida have skyrocketed over %200.
Here’s a breakdown by calendar year and whether the person acting in self-defense was a civilian or a law enforcement officer:

Calendar Year Justifiable homicide by civilian Justifiable homicide by police Total
2000 12 20 32
2001 12 21 33
2002 12 23 35
2003 16 16 32
2004 8 23 31
2005 18 25 43
2006 12 21 33
2007 42 60 102
2008 41 52 93
2009 45 60 105
2010 40 56 96
First half of 2011 16 33 49

Miami’s police chief made a prediction shortly before the law took effect:

“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house,” Chief John Timoney told the New York Times, “you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”                                                                                             -Tampa Bay Times

These predictions, unfortunately, turned out to be true. How many more Trayvon Martin and David James will it take until it becomes obvious that the stand your ground law must go!!

Trayvon Martin: Its Bigger Than Racism

With me being a black man in America it is an understatement to say that I am upset over the murder of Trayvon Martin. But it would be absurd for me to be outraged over his murder and not be just as outraged over the thousands of murders that go on everyday in the U.S and the world. Just turn on your local evening news tonight and see for yourself. By no means am I attempting to belittle the murder of Trayvon nor the issue of racial profiling. What I am saying is that this is bigger than Trayvon and bigger than issues of race. What we are faced with here is a “humane problem” and to keep this incident confined to simply a racial issue is not only a disservice to Trayvon but also to the countless number of people who are murdered in the U.S. and around the world every year. Living in South Central L.A. murder is an everyday thing. Time and time again I turn on the news to see a mother crying on tv over the senseless murder of her child, where is the outrage? A few months ago I got off the bus on my way home from work and was harassed by some gang members. Fortunately I made it home without any incident but in South Central L.A. there are so many who don’t. Had I gotten killed that day would President Obama have addressed it on the White House lawn? Would Lebron James and Dwayne Wade have written my name on their shoes before the Miami Heat game? Would people be protesting in the streets over my murder? The answer to all of these questions is no. Chances are, you wouldn’t have even heard about it and if you did you would have carried on about your day as if nothing happened. I challenge every one of you to turn on your local evening news tonight. Watch how many people were killed today and then ask yourself, do I really care? Everyday a countless number of people are killed, most of them for no good reason. It is time for us to recognize this as a “humane problem” and use reason, logic and behavioral science to put an end to murder and senseless violence. Some say it is impossible but I strongly beg to differ. How then, you may be asking. Well that’s another blog for another time, guess you’ll have to stay tuned. With that said, R.I.P. Trayvon Martin, let us use you passing as a catalyst to put an end to senseless violence all over the world. To slightly quote President Obama, If I ever have a son, I hope he looks just like you.

Trayvon Martin 1995-2012