Consider this, dear readers, a quintessential rock and hard place tale.
The hard place: all those Chicago citizens caught in that city’s violence this year. As of June 30, some 261 people have been murdered in the Windy City. That’s a 38 percent increase over 2011.
And Chicago’s most homicidal have, it seems, only just begun. According to a news story in the Chicago Tribune, there have been 18 homicides in the city since July 1, bringing the total for the year to 277.
Many of the dear departed are black. Some were gang members, caught in the retaliatory war between rival gangs. Others had nothing to do with gangs. Here is a list of some of those caught in that hard place.
1. Heaven Sutton, only 7 years old, killed by a gang banger’s stray bullet as she sold candy and snow cones on her block.
That’s the problem with gang bangers. We already know they can’t think straight. Apparently, they can’t shoot straight either.
If there’s one thing I’m absolutely adamant about, it’s that 7-year-old sisters trying to sell candy and snow cones on their blocks should be able to do that without catching a bullet. I thought for sure that Heaven Sutton’s death would provoke as much outrage among black Americans as Trayvon Martin’s death.
Looks like I thought wrong.
2. Kitanna Peterson, only 10 years old, was shot as she frolicked in the water spurting from a fire hydrant. Little Kitanna survived her wounds.
3. Tyquan Tyler, only 13, was headed home from a party around 1:30 a.m. when he took a bullet in the chest during a drive-by shooting. His wound was fatal.
4. Antonio Davis, only 14, died the same day Tyler did, June 22. And by the same method: a gunshot wound received during a drive-by shooting.
5. During that weekend, Friday June 22 through Sunday, June 24, two other people besides Tyler and Davis were killed, and 29 wounded.
6. From Friday night, July 6 through Saturday morning, July 7, some 12 people were shot in Chicago.
Let’s recap: in one weekend, some 33 bodies, four of them dead. In on period less than 24 hours, some 12 people shot. Among the dead in Chicago from homicide this year are one 14-year-old boy, one 13-year-old boy and one 7-year-old girl. And another 10-year-old girl was wounded.
Now if those children, Tyquan Tyler, Antonio Davis, Heaven Sutton and Kitanna Peterson, were all in some kind of trouble with the juvenile justice system, there’d be plenty of black folks screaming about what those awful white folks are doing to “our babies.”
But since all are victims of people we can safely assume are black gang members, their shootings are met only with an eerie, baffling, infuriating silence.
So much for the hard place black Chicagoans, particularly the youth, find themselves in. Now on to the rock.
That would be those strike forces Chicago police used to employ against gang members. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and top cop Garry McCarthy replaced those strike forces with beat patrols.
Two Chicago aldermen, Anthony Beale and Willie Cochran, want a return of those police strike forces, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
“Both (aldermen) said residents in their communities are so fed up with the violence,” the Tribune story reported, “they would welcome a return to the more aggressive, stop-and-frisk tactics of police strike forces, even though they often prompted complaints of harassment and civil (liberties) abuses.”
Mercy, mercy me, what a choice: more violence from gang bangers or police tactics that might lead to a wholesale violation of civil liberties. If that’s not a classic case of being caught between a rock and a hard place, I don’t know what is.
But this, I’m sure, is what the constituents of both Beale and Cochran are thinking: when bullets start flying the way they have been in our neighborhoods this year, when 7-year-old girls are being killed and 10-year-old girls are being wounded, we don’t have the luxury of being civil libertarians.
And as much as I cringe at the thought of police violating civil liberties – I have, in the past criticized cops for not being “Bill of Rights friendly” or “friend of the Negro organizations” – I have to, in this case, reluctantly come down on the side of Beale and Cochran’s constituents.
And I’m coming down on that side hard.