African-American neighborhoods in Chicago are on edge as another holiday weekend approaches. Last weekend seven people were killed on Christmas Day alone — some of them at family gatherings — in violence that’s thought to be gang-related.
On why gang-related violence persists in Chicago
“We continue to have a serious economic problem, more so than anything. In Chicago, especially on the South Side and West Sides of Chicago, we experience the highest unemployment rate of any place in America, as far as it relates to young, African-American males. And I think the fact that the economy is the way that it is in our neighborhoods, it drives a lot of the tension, it drives a lot of the hopelessness, and unfortunately that breeds the violence that we’re experiencing.”
On challenges that people in some Chicago neighborhoods face
“The very fact that people are having difficulty paying their bills, the very fact that they can’t go any do some of the normal things that normal people do — like go to a show, or buy things. And I think, a lot of times on the South Side and West Sides of Chicago, specifically with these young men, they feel like they’re not a part of society, and as a consequence, you start to do things that, you know, endanger people’s lives, like violence and shooting and killing. Young people can’t even walk to school, or they can’t even walk to stores — it’s a very dangerous place.”
On unemployment as a factor behind gang-related violence
“We say this all the time, that ‘hammers beat guns all the time,’ ‘jobs trump guns all the time.’ No one wants to be shot at, no one wants to be a killer, no one wants to be a thug. These young men, they want to be productive, they want to be a part of society, they want to take care of their families, they want to be able to do all the things that you should be able to do in America, but that is not happening. And as a result, they keep limiting themselves to this type of behavior, because they don’t see any other options available.”
On how to disrupt the cycle of violence
“We have to continue to make sure that we have all hands on deck. I think one of the things that we experience so often is that we’re not all working together, we’re working in silos, we’re working in our own, individual things. We’ve gotta figure out a way for us to come together and cooperatively put programs in place to move people from where they are to a lifestyle of working. I love the fact that Donald Trump is saying that he’s going to invest in the infrastructure of America. I think that is going to create a lot of jobs.”
On tax credits and other methods for finding solutions
“I serve on a Tollway Board here in the State of Illinois, and I’m able to see, when people make investment in areas, how you’re able to create jobs and get people to working, so I really do believe that. Tax credits for individual companies coming into these impoverished areas are always a great idea. I think we have to create these economic empowerment zones to give companies an opportunity to invest in areas where there’s crime. Because there has to be a win-win situation…
“I tell people this: that we live in a great country. America is a great place, and we have great minds and great thinkers. And I just don’t believe that we can live in these areas and not have people who cannot create solutions.”
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