While selling candy, 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was gunned down in Austin, the community where I live and have the privilege to represent – we need to act now.
Blacks make up 13 percent of the state’s population, yet black males make up half of the total number of murder victims in the United States (if we add in women and children, the number is even higher). Ninety-three percent of blacks who are murdered are killed by other blacks. In the last 10 years, more Americans have been killed on our streets than have been killed in Afghanistan.
If we are ever going to fix the problem of society as a whole, we can no longer ignore the problems of blacks, especially in our majority black communities.
American society has struggled with the emancipation of blacks, then with the right of black men to vote, then the right of women to vote, and then the struggle for civil rights and the Voting Rights Act. But the struggle is not over. We must deal with the disparities that are slapping us in the face every day.
Incarceration is a big problem in American society, but it is even a bigger problem in the black community, where one out of every four black men is incarcerated. Once in jail on felony charges, these men lose their freedom to vote. And, as large numbers of them keep getting put away, the black community loses that part of its voice. The worse thing is that a lot of these men are excessively punished for crimes that may not have warranted such harsh punishment. This is true in black and Latino communities; more prisons than schools are being populated from people from our neighborhoods.
Furthermore, communities and families have lost their life savings and their neighborhoods are being destroyed because of the mortgage crisis led by predatory lenders who were eager to make quick bucks off of many black people in our communities, whom they said were qualified, but actually did not qualify for a loan. Many blacks with good credit were given bad loans, when they actually qualified for prime loans, robbing many people of their small businesses and life savings when the market crashed.
Blacks tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Thus access to medical care is of utmost importance. Education is vital in all communities regardless of race, but in the black community, it is even more important to have access to quality education.
Knowledge is power and that knowledge comes by education. It is unfortunate that in this country many inner-city schools serving black children are underfunded; there is unequal distribution of resources and yet students are expected to compete on the same level. Only 45 percent of blacks have a high school degree and 14 percent of blacks in Illinois are proficient in reading. The black unemployment rate in Illinois is over 45 percent.
The problems that continue to go unaddressed in the black community cause a drain on the state budget. In 2011, it cost the state $20,110 a year to incarcerate someone. It is time to be respectful of taxpayers and how their tax money is used. Problems only get worse and cost more over time if we do not act. This effort will need the help of leaders such as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn, and I look forward to meeting with both leaders to start to address the problems in the black community.
I am preparing a proposal called the Black Act, standing on the shoulders of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, to help deal with the problems in the black community. The Black Act will be announced before the end of July. The act will call for people of all races to work together to help. Most of all, it will call on black people to begin to recognize the strengths they have, with the aim of building stronger communities and stronger relationships with their government, universities, church, police, and other community leaders, including blacks who no longer live in majority black communities.
The next step is to plan our event to deal with black problems. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas and input.¡¡
For more information, call Rep. Ford’s Oak Park office at 708-4450-3673 or the Chicago office at 773-378-5902, or visit www.lashawnford.com.