The prevalence of guns, the city’s segregation and the lack of economic opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods were just some of the many issues raised during “The View From My Block,” a call-in special from WBEZ and WVON that examined causes and solutions to Chicago’s rising gun violence.
In addition to hearing from scores of listeners, hosts Tony Sarabia, from WBEZ’s Morning Shift, and Perri Small, midday host at WVON, talked to Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and a host of community leaders and activists.
Here are some highlights from “The View From My Block.”
On mandatory sentencing
Johnson repeated his call for tougher sentences for repeat gun offenders. He said out of all the homicide arrests made last year, 40 percent of those arrested were repeat gun offenders.
But Johnson said he was cautious of mandatory sentencing.
“In case people didn’t know, I’m African American, so I am not a fan of … mass incarceration and disproportionate arresting of minorities,” Johnson said. “But I will tell you this, if you choose to pick up a gun, pull the trigger and shoot somebody … you should go to prison for it.”
On distrust of police
“I know there’s a lot of distrust in the minority communities of the police,” Johnson said. “We are working very hard to repair that. But the bottom line is police officers don’t normally witness these crimes occurring, so we need the public’s help with solving these crimes.”
On ‘black on black crime’
“Every time there’s violence in our community, we always say, ‘It is the black community,’ and we start talking about ‘black on black crime,’” said Rev. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights. “There’s no such thing. We just kind of created this whole idea.”
“White people kill white people, brown people kill brown people,” Small said.
“You shot people based on proximity and poverty,” Moss said. “That’s how people are killed.”
On gender roles in the black community
WBEZ’s South Side reporter Natalie Moore said the focus on finding solutions to the city’s gun violence and systemic racism should not be solely up to black men.
“We do tend to talk about these things in gendered terms, whether its prison, violence or jobs in African-American communities,” Moore said. “Men aren’t the only solution, everyone is.”
Small said many black men feel emasculated.
“We’ve got to make our men feel like men again,” she said.
But Moore said women are often overlooked and it is not fair to assume men bare the sole responsibility of curbing gun violence.
“To make this a man issue rather than a community issue is a problem,” said Moore.
Moore said the city’s spike in shootings is rooted in a lack of economic opportunities.
“Violence is a symptom of something larger,” Moore said.
Moore pointed to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute that found Cook County leads the nation in the number of unemployed young people of color.
“If you don’t have jobs, investment or schools, you’re going to undermine the best moms and dads,” Moore said. “I’m not saying personal responsibility isn’t an issue, but if we only focus on the behavioral part too much, we’re not going to change these conditions.”
Click the ‘Play’ button above to listen to the interview program.