President Obama answered the demand for his to visit Chicago to address the violence plaguing his hometown.
Although an online petition garnered more than 45,000 collective signatures from across the country, the reception for such a visit by actual Chicagoans was mixed. Some who simply wanted validation that the hundreds of lives lost to violence be recognized as a national concern welcomed the attention POTUS’ presence would bring to the city. Others, who think of themselves as radicals for the hood, wanted no parts of the politics that surely would accompany the POTUS. Still, there were those who believe the death of Hadiya Pendleton should no more warrant a reaction from the leader of this nation than the other children who lost their lives prior. Then there were those like me, who fully grasp how the POTUS’ presence would yield the demand that the lost lives of Chicago’s children be included in the national discourse on child welfare and violence, as well as abide a common-sense acknowledgement that whatever work we desire to see, whatever healing required to heal our city wracked with so much blood shed and pain, requires on the ground organizing and work.
While acknowledging the above sentiments, it is kind of perplexing to me that the ones who seemed to have the most vocal outrage and disdain for President Barack Obama’s speech to Chicago are not even from Chicago. Go figure.
I find the outrage quite disheartening for a number of reasons.
1. People seemed to be disappointed that gun violence wasn’t his main focus. But didn’t he tell us what he came to discuss?
Further more, everyone wants to focus on gun violence and thrust Chicago into that conversation. Yes, we should have a bookmark. But our problem is beyond gun violence. It is stifling segregation that plays out in housing and education which feeds into joblessness and poverty. It is classism. It is loss of mental health care. It is the inertia of political will and fortitude. Violence, whether by gun, knife, pipe, fists; is yet a manifestation of it all. He addressed all of that.
“That’s what I’ve come here to talk about today…raising our kids. I’m here to make sure we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life. Building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond. And most importantly keeping them safe from harm.”
Now, I did not paraphrase. That is the exact words of POTUS.
2. I completely understand there are those who resist the traditional view of family and what they consider to be “hetero-normative.” But puh-lease! This was no ivy-league, university campus sequestered lecture debunking feminism nor a woman’s right to be an independent single mother. But since some lead us down that road, I must ask…how’s that working for us?
The President was speaking to the issues in the hoods of Chicago….the various communities where households lack ANY resolute male presence, for generations inclusive of fathers, grandfathers and uncles. He wasn’t specifically addressing marriage (though if he were what is wrong with that?) But yes, if you want to discuss heterosexual privilege…um let’s ask how many of the single mothers how their children came to be?
I cannot count how many of the girls who are in my programs share that they have either never seen their father, haven’t seen their father in more than a year, or don’t have any respectful relationship with their fathers.
Now for those who had a problem with the POTUS remarks, when’s the last time you spoke to a group of Chicago youth and asked how they feel about their father’s presence in their lives?
In his words, “No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless acts of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill, only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.”
Is this flipping the script on what we have known, and subjectively purport; that is starts at home? That we learn our values and sense of self from family/community first, then school, media, etc?
Y’all mad because he said families and solid parenting are the foundation to setting a child on a path that does not lead them to hopelessness and destructive behaviors? Don’t claim that he “blamed” single mothers for violence. He spoke on the unfair and unforgiving policies that penalize young people. He spoke about lack of jobs. He spoke about education reform…
It sounds like folks cherry picked the points they wanted to hear and ignored the others. Before President Obama even mentioned fathers, he said, “There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding.”
I don’t know. Watch for yourself.
3. What really gets to me is that this address was local…folks had the privilege to see it via a livestream from a “local” ABC affiliate. From the very beginning I think he made that clear…I mean do you know the relationship between Woodlawn and Hyde Park high school? Can you decipher the dynamics of those communities? Do you have an inkling to the generational ties to street organizations that sprouted from Woodlawn? Do you know history of federal funding that has come into this city to solve this very problem more than 30 years ago and the outcomes? These small details are a HUGE part of what is happening today.
Listen, POTUS was not providing the blueprint for the Nation. This was not for you, really. It was for Chicago. A do-for self reminder. Or is Kwanzaa only relevant in December? People only seem to be able to handle the truth when it’s in a lie. Or only when Minister Farrakhan marches a million Black men into the Nation’s capital to tell them they need to step it up as fathers and keepers of the community.
What I’d like to offer is this. As a nation, if you care about Chicago’s violence and the and continuing decline in moral fortitude of our people across this country, then let’s do this. Let’s halt the reactionary impulse to get caught up in the semantics of the message. Let’s focus on the truth. The truth is we are far off the path that our ancestors laid for us. We are even further from the inherent greatness our Creator has instilled in us. The truth is we are not living up to our Divine principle. The truth is , while we live under oppressive systems that teach us to hate our selves and inflict harm on one another, WE KNOW BETTER. And the truth, plain and simple is that far too many are not doing their part to transform. They’d rather pontificate on the problem and the words of a messenger. While you are dissecting POTUS address for your next “university” lecture, how much time will you spend serving the youth in the hood? How much time are you giving being a mentor to a young person?
It’s almost a level of poverty pimping. Yes I’m going there. Folks will do mad lecture series around the country visiting cities like Chicago and never once go to a struggling school while there. Nope. Nice hotel, straight to campus where your “topic” is not even present. Or how about those amongst us who have college degrees, abc’s behind our names never been out of a job or homeless in our adult lives, travel the world, yet we continue to perpetuate and sing that sad song to brothers and sisters struggling that the system ain’t fair and won’t let them succeed. Hell, how did you make it?
Folks want to stay in the misery talk of how oppression is the culprit and it’s the “man’s fault” that we don’t love ourselves and make bad choices. Yeah. The man playing his part. Still, you know the song and still do the dance. So…
I’m ready for real solutions.
How about we all build a unified voice of demands that result in a federal probe into the root causes of inner-city violence. Then we can really get to the crux of poverty and hopelessness.
What if we all supported inner-city youth programs with our time, finances, gifts? Are you a journalist, attorney, accountant, professor, entrepreneur? You are needed in the hood!
Let’s just stop talking about it, stop tweeting about, stop commentating and BE about it!
Thought I’d share a little Goodie Mob with you….The Experience!