1. Fire Police Chief Garry McCarthy and any other Broken Windows practitioner
McCarthy, in following the racist Broken Windows philosophy of crime-fighting, is actually making things worse in largely-black neighborhoods. The BW theory focuses on minor, often victimless crimes in order to catch and supposedly prevent larger crimes. But it does so by targeting and fracturing communities of color and targeting minorities at embarrassingly high disproportion. Police members have admitted that they are ordered to shake down people with petty crimes in order to “get results”. Results-oriented policing really is just code for scaring up numbers to make it look like the police are actually doing something. But all they’re doing is large-scale abduction of people of color and leaving their communities open to more poverty and crime.
2. Decriminalize marijuana usage
This one is a bit difficult. Drug trafficking is good business in black neighborhoods precisely because it is illegal. When it becomes legalized, well-connected White people tend to take over and make the money. It would be nice in one sense to eventually decriminalize all drugs and offer treatment, but that may never happen in US culture. In the meantime, possession of small amounts of weed is the number one cause of incarceration in Chicago, so we can at least knock out a chunk of the problem right here.
3. Reinvest in poor neighborhoods
If you’ve yet to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ praiseworthy and headway-making article “The Case for Reparations”, we’ll be right here when you come back. Neighborhoods like Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Lawndale, Back of the Yards, Roseland, and Englewood. Efforts and money should also be invested in trying to slow gentrification and further displacement of poor people in neighborhoods like Logan Square and Pilsen where more and more middle class White people move in and drive out established black and brown families. When I say re-invest, I’m arguing along with Coates that wealth and resources were already taken from these communities and need to be put back in. This is not a matter of a few million dollars, either, but billions upon billions that have been diverted from neighborhoods of color over generations. Funds should be given back concurrently through infrastructure (high quality education at all levels, better paved roads, rapid public transportation service, high-speed internet and widespread computers) and economics (living wage jobs, investments in local businesses, building construction, grocery stores in food deserts, cash payouts). The two are, of course, intricately connected, especially if jobs for the first are localized and communities are afforded the opportunity to grow their own educators and tradesters.
4. Reduce easy access to guns
Gun control is a tricky widget. Chicago has some tough limits on guns, but the last thing we need is more criminalization as it leads to more incarceration. Mass imprisonment, as we’ve noted, doesn’t really solve problems – it mostly delays and concentrates them. Since many of the guns come from areas just outside of Chicago, it just makes more sense to reduce them and find ways to fight the trafficking of them into the city. One way to do this without illegal and expensive searches of every car that passes by is to track purchases and limit gun purchases. One shop in Riverdale, Illinois was connected to 1300 confiscated guns in Chicago between 2008-2012. So taking such places and traffickers out of commission would help tremendously, but then we have an NRA to deal with. And the NRA, for all their talk about “good guys with guns” really isn’t interested in reducing gun violence. So we have to rely on decreasing demand for the most part. End the racial and economic violence, and the demand for retributive physical violence falls as well.
So, there we have it: Four easy-peasy solutions that Chicagoans and local activists like Mayoral Tutorial and Prison Culture have been saying for years. If our elected leadership is looking for real solutions and not just looking like they’re making solutions, it will mean some significant changes in the way business is conducted here. If progressives want to help Chicago, share what Chicago progressives in these affected communities are saying, please. Not the Democratic Party, not Rahm Emanuel, not even the national gun control community. You would think only Republicans would be against these reforms. Take note, fellow progressives, most of the time, the way forward is to listen to the people most affected.