by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I consider the South Side of Chicago to be my second home. I love this community like no other, and I find this part of the city to be filled with hard working, intelligent, loving and industrious citizens. The South Side gets a lot of attention for the violence, which is a serious problem. But it is also a bastion of inspiration when it comes to building black businesses, community organizing and all the other things that make black people great. Remember that the same community that produced the exceedingly violent rapper Chief Keef and the Hadiya Pendleton murder also touts Min. Louis Farrakhan and First Lady Michelle Obama.
With that being said, I woke up this morning thinking about a video that was produced by the rapper Lil Jo Jo shortly before he was murdered on the south side. Jo Jo’s mother believes that her son was killed by someone affiliated with the rapper Chief Keef, and I agree with her (especially after Keef and his friends seemed to be bragging about the murder on Twitter). Of course, Jo Jo was too young to die, and the senseless violence breaks my heart.
What also breaks my heart is that our nation is unwilling to try to understand the socioeconomic conditions that lead to young men choosing to shoot each other down. The list is a simple and persistent one, but most people would rather assume that we’re just a bunch of angry buffoons who enjoy seeing our brains splattered onto the street. Here’s a short list of factors:
- Having one or both parents locked away in the prison industrial complex (aka modern day slavery by nearly any measure)
- Horribly weak educational systems and opportunities
- A skyrocketing black and teen unemployment rate that no one is paying attention to
- Having parents that might be hooked on drugs or unable to provide for their children
- The easy availability of guns that corporations would never dare to provide so readily in the suburbs
- The mass production of commercialized hip-hop music that systematically brainwashes young, misguided children to become hard core killers by the age of 14
When you create conditions designed to produce trauma, despair, desensitization to violence and more serious forms of mental illness, and then you make it easy for kids to get guns into their possession, this is a recipe for disaster. These outcomes are not produced by accident. I am convinced it is by design.
When I watch the Lil Jo Jo video (which you can see below), I can’t help but wonder, “Where in the h*ll did those teenagers get all those guns?” I then wonder if Chicago police did a thorough job of investigating where the guns in this video came from. I find it interesting that the guns just “slip through” to the black market and end up on the streets so easily. The prevalence of these weapons is a reminder of serious political corruption in the city, and African Americans should be outraged, since hand guns are the #1 killer of black men in America.
Chicago politicians should be ashamed of the fact that there are communities where a teenager has an easier time getting a gun than getting an education. This is nothing short of disgusting.
The violence problem in Chicago and other urban centers around America is no big mystery. There are experts who can tell you exactly why the problems exist, and exactly how to solve them. What is also clear is that corporate greed and racism lead our nation to feel that it’s OK to allow these problems to fester. It is our lack of political will that keeps us from doing the right thing.
The children in this video (some who look as young as five years old) were created by us and made in America. We all play a role in these outcomes.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.