On Being Black in America, Today: Trump Vs. Chicago

Trump Threatens Chicago with Federal Intervention Over High Murder Rates via Tweet

The 45th president of the United States took to Twitter Tuesday evening to threaten the city of Chicago with federal intervention if the city cannot stop the “horrible “carnage” going on.” The horrible carnage he’s referring to is Chicago’s alarmingly high homicide rate (746 deaths in 2016). The president cited a statistic that in 2017 (mind you we’re 25 days in), the murder rate has gone up “24%” from the same time in 2016. He did not cite his source (maybe this?). However, there is plenty of evidence to prove that, while Chicago’s murder numbers are unbelievably high, the murder rate alone does not fully represent the scope of the problem. In Chicago or nationally. In fact, the violent crime rate has been trending downward nationally (66%) over the last 10 years. Too, intervening this way in Chicago will only set an intrusive precedent, rather than a long lasting solution. Lest we forget that the President once proposed a nation-wide stop and frisk program. Trump later clarified that he was only speaking about Chicago.

Let us not be coy, why the President would single out Chicago should be obvious: black people live there, the primary victims of Chicago’s violent crime are black, and during the campaign, “inner cities” was used as political code speak for black people. In Trumpland, statistics taken of context, like the one cited by the President, have served as ammunition to bolster prejudices. In this case: that black people are an unruly lot who contribute nothing to society other than violence, mayhem and illegitimate children. To Trump and his ilk, Chicago is a perfect case study for what’s wrong with (poor) black people and (poor) communities of color in urban America. A longstanding logical fallacy based in racism.

If the infant Trump administration really wanted me to think that they care about families and communities that are affected by overwhelming gun violence, threats to send an unspecified Federal agency is not the way to do it.

We are three business days into this new administration and the President has already made clear, via Twitter, his approach to the issues within black communities. Simply: he’ll send the Feds. Proposals like that have a very complicated albeit well documented history in this country. Black citizens have, for centuries, been subject to disproportional persecution by the State in the name of “Law & Order,” with absolutely no acknowledgement whatever that: perhaps the state of lawlessness in those communities is due to economic policies supported by the state.

Black Chicagoan’s relationship with the Chicago Police Department is already tenuous. It is, after all, the place where an unarmed Laquan McDonald was shot sixteen times by the Chicago PD. Chicago also has a very long history with race and economics. Ta-Nehisi Coates uses Chicago as the backdrop for his seminal essay The Case For Reparations in The Atlantic. Presumably because black Chicagoans are still suffering economically from the racist and predatory lending practices that created the ghettos. That model was adopted by cities across the United States, and affects of thode practices are very present today.

While Chicago does have an alarmingly high rate of gun violence with an unprecedented surge in the murder rate in 2016 (the highest in twenty years), the President’s blunt philosophical approach to dealing with poor and middle class communities with majority populations of color, speaks to a broader, widely accepted ignorance of what exactly is happening and has happened to these communities. Communities that have had resources systemically drained by the very same enterprise that claims to represent them.

Author’s Note (Updating): 
Jan 25th, 2016: I originally stated that Trump’s 24% figure was “debatable.” I made an edit to clarify that while a source was not cited in the Tweet, a figure reported by the Chicago Tribune on Jan 23rd pegged the increase at “42 homicides at an increase of 23.5%” from 2016 as of 2 days ago. I also made edits for clarity.

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