For me, crime falls into two categories: Crimes we do to ourselves (collectively) and crimes perpetrated against us (again collectively).
I want to address each issue independently. Why? Because even though in the end both varieties of crimes are the anchors holding us back from getting to “the promised land” of which Dr. King spoke, we need to understand how one can affect the other.
I believe the majority of people in Austin are hardworking, honest citizens who go to work and just want to come home to peace and quiet. As a people, I don’t know many black folks who go to work and don’t experience racism every single day. I have often wondered what it is like to be able to exist in this country and not think about race in everything, but for myself, I have yet to see that time come.
When we return to this community where we are the super-majority and have to deal with the day-in, day-out stupidity of some people who live in this community, well that in itself is an outright crime! I’m talking about the people who make your life hell when you return to this community after spending eight hours on a job with people who made your life hell.
I’ll start with the criminality of those whose entire life goal is to make this neighborhood into their preconceived notion of a ghetto. You know who those folks are. They are the ones who never taught themselves or their children the meaning of a garbage can. They are the ones who park in front of your house and leave physical evidence of what they had for dinner. They are the ones who feel that the entire community needs to hear the bass of their radio as it vibrates the entire block when they drive by. They are the ones who claimed they wanted a house and a better life for their children, then moved in next door and proceeded to trash the place.
They are the ones sitting around with nothing positive to do, so they find everything negative in the world to do. They are the people who add nothing to the neighborhood and then complain about life’s mistreatment. They are the ones walking the streets with the ability to use the word “MF” as verb, noun, pronoun and adjective. They are the ones whose current “keeping it real” motto marks a generation filled with people who have no respect for themselves or others. They bring their “realness” to the community and have no concern for how much it makes other suffer. They are the ones whose narcissist, self-indulgent natures have them spending $40,000 or more for a luxury automobile and then show no shame parking it in front of a litter-strewn building and against garbage-lined curbs.
They are the ones who come to visit and don’t ask to use the bathroom, but have no problem urinating in the alleys. They are the ones who choose not to get an education and have made it hard for children who do. They are the ones quick to proclaim that blacks who want it better in life are “acting white” as if wanting to have nothing is therefore “being black.”
They are the ones carrying guns and always shooting and hitting innocent bystanders. They are the ones selling drugs on the corner, then going home to a house on the block with families who know damn well what they are doing.
Then we have the crimes that are committed against us-crimes committed by a policy designed to make sure that for the past 40 years the West Side has looked like a twin city to war-torn Beirut. Why is it only in the black community our entire business strip can contain storefront churches that don’t contribute to the economic well being of a community? Those churches are closed more than open, don’t bring any jobs to the community and by their presence prevent legitimate businesses from opening because those businesses don’t want to deal with the hassles of locating next to a church.
Why do we pay $75 for a city sticker while a street in our neighborhood like Chicago Avenue, west of Grand Avenue has more potholes than the moon has craters! But travel east of Grand where the neighborhood is changing, and you would think you were driving on an airport runway.
Why is there only one grocery store owned by blacks in all of Chicago (Chatham Foods)? Where is our political leadership as the mayor gives millions in TIF funds to companies already making millions (Navistar, The Mercantile Exchange) while monies invested in the black communities always go to outsiders (Washington Square Mall land sold to a crony of the mayor for one dollar!).
How can we have new houses (Galewood Crossings) and a new shopping center (Menards at Kostner/North) being built with no black workers? After all the lauding about jobs for blacks building the new Wal-Mart, why isn’t the same being done for other major projects in the community?
How can a brand new high school (North-Grand) be built across from the old Jewel Food Store on Kostner and not a single word said to eighth graders who would have gone to the old Austin High School? Instead, the Board of Ed closes down Austin High School and sends our children to Wells, Clemente and other schools where fights have occurred because they have had to cross gang territory lines?
Why is it that we send property tax dollars downtown but can barely point to any of that money coming back to us? On average, every four blocks is sending over a million dollars in property taxes downtown. Vacant communities in Chicago like the South Loop and Near West Side have been developed. Guess whose money they used to do it with?
And why are the police putting more than 25 bullets in a man (Howard Morgan), or Tasering to death a handcuffed naked man (Geffery Johnson), or shooting a suspect in the back (Aaron Harrison) before we wake up and notice that no other communities have people getting killed like ours?
We have crime committed by us and crime committed against us. Ain’t it a crime?