It doesn’t make sense.
I was sitting outside this Saturday morning in Panamá enjoying a fresh cup of coffee, listening to some morning jazz, getting my thoughts together for the day. As you might imagine, birds are singing and aside from the occasional bark from Jojo, (who got up early with me and sits at my feet), it’s quiet. It’s relaxing. It’s necessary.
I decide to break my personal protocol, interrupt the music, and look at my timeline. I know I shouldn’t. Not right now at least. Not only that but…how disrespectful is it to interrupt Miles?
But I do.
There it is again. Englewood. Right there in the Chi. Just two days ago, I was reading about the same area and what occurred there. The backdrop of jazz is in such contradiction to the video I am watching that I decide to turn the music off. It’s not fitting. It’s out of place. Normally, I can find beauty in contradictions – from an artist’s standpoint, that is. There is nothing beautiful about what I am watching. This is not art and the contradiction is repugnant.
While America points to Chicago as the murder capital of the nation and an example of senseless killings that continually make their way into debates on whether Black lives truly matter, Englewood nestles itself amid an ongoing and unjust war. Elsewhere, patriots swear by America and upon the tenets on which it was founded, ignorant of those very same tenets that contribute to Black people’s demise. Black people like the ones in Englewood.
Out of all of the things the Chicago Police Department could have done to help the people of Englewood, they chose to conduct a sting on people in an impoverished neighborhood. Today, another truck (or quite realistically, the same one) is back on center stage, flanked by a supporting cast of characters contradictory named law enforcement hoping to continue a deadly and debilitating cycle. The performance commences.
Make no mistake about their intent. It was more than just cops conducting a sting. It was making sure that Blacks in an already difficult situation were put in an even worse situation – one that would be even harder to recover from; one that could cripple their lives and plunge them into a deeper abyss than what they are already living.
Don’t touch the truck and they won’t be arrested? Why is the truck there anyway? I’ll tell you what my father used to tell me – in hopes that his lesson would somehow make its way past my youthful stubbornness, since I supposedly already knew everything – “Let me tell you something that you already know.”
These type of traps – and more importantly, the hidden intent behind them – would never happen to white people in white neighborhoods. You and I both know this. These traps are the type of deceitful, lying, and cunning tactics that the CPD chooses to employ against the people who reside there. The same cops who conduct these stings are the same cops who will tell us to trust them.
The destruction of Black lives continuously and openly takes place but, at times, it is subtle in nature, covert in its dealings. I am not from Englewood but I might as well be. I don’t know the people there personally… but I know them. Just as many other Black people know them through an interwoven sameness. Some of us are more fortunate than others, yet we are still subject to the same treatment that forged America for which those same aforementioned patriots would proudly die.
The Englewoods of America, however, are commonplace – its residents viewed as thugs unworthy of empathy much less life. To some, their successes are considered threats; failures are expected accomplishments. Any chance of success should be thwarted at the earliest possible opportunity. Different Englewoods are falsely and discriminately portrayed the same: as the direct opposite of the American dream. In many ways, Englewood magnifies the brevity of the real trap. Death runs rampant – literally. Fourteen and a half out of 1000 babies born to mothers in Englewood do not reach their first birthday. In addition:
- The median household income in Englewood is 58% lower than the national average.
- The unemployment rate in Englewood is 299% higher than the national average.
Yet this is how their city chooses to improve their lives? It doesn’t make sense.
A Historical Perspective
It is easy to connect the dots. When one correctly knows one’s history and the country in which they reside (as one should correctly know American history), it is no longer a surprise when things like this happen. It does not make it any easier to bear but it can be described as expected. Knowing how Blacks were kept out of neighborhoods by redlining; that ghettos didn’t just occur – they were planned. That America patterned its ghettos after the previous ghettos, which were homes to Jews – strategically placed by Nazis to segregate them and thus limit their interactions, debilitate their resources, and stunt their lives from progressing. That Black and Jewish ties have quite a bit in common, yet the end result of the torture both endured has once again been chronicled that one is considered worthy of recompense, the other is not.
We are familiar with the hypocrisy from those who opine that there is no need for Blacks to receive reparations – while they, themselves, are at the same time leaving a courthouse to settle a suit which will compensate them heavily for loss of monetary gain, for pain and suffering, and for mental anguish among other claims – many of which are embellished. Many of which are far less consequential. Instead, the results of America’s crimes yield a constant and physical reminder in the form of Englewood -inheritors of America’s pillaging tactics – whose people have been pillaged once again.
The peril of the patriot lies in having an all-out serious discussion regarding the history of such actions geared toward Blacks and the consequences of those actions taken against us. It forces one to look deeper into how the past affects the present; how many of the same devices concocted ages ago by those in power are clearly manifested today. It is a quandary for some because in such a dwelling place, one must come to the realization that the cards have indeed been stacked against folks of a darker hue. It is uncomfortable but at the same time a truth – an uncomfortable truth that must be acknowledged in order to go forward. That when given further thought, the realization that there are distinct differences in the treatment of Black lives -its essence, its being, its existence – mirrors that same uncomfortable truth. Yet it still encompasses much more.
It speaks to a people who have heard the retort, “Well, if they don’t steal, they wouldn’t suffer the consequences.” This from people who have stolen both literally and figuratively.
This from people who will gladly quote President Kennedy’s “Ask not…” but will just as easily ignore President Johnson’s words where he rightly spoke in reference to Black poverty as “solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice;” from those who love King’s Dream but not his Letter. That which is not socially appealing is uncomfortable to confront.
I am more upset at this than you know. Part of my frustration comes from knowing that truth in its rawest form will still be denied by those unaffected by its devastation. If you don’t understand anything else, please understand this: when I speak of what happened in Englewood, I am speaking of the sheer racism attached to the very heart of these sting operations.
This is simply a microcosm of our nation and a part of what America has fought to maintain. Same tactics, different uniforms. It is abhorrent. It is callous. It is what America continues to propagate: its all-American truth.
Only when one knows and comprehends this history can they connect the dots. That’s when it will all make sense…
…and at the same time make no damn sense at all.