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West Side needs investment, not UN occupation

Opinion: Letters to the editor

January 24th, 2018 10:35 AM

Brandon Johnson

By Brandon Johnson

At this time last year, President Donald Trump took another potshot at Chicago's crime rate by threatening a takeover, tweeting "I will send in the Feds!" if Chicago's epidemic of violence couldn't be contained.

A few weeks ago, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin did Trump one better when he asked for an international occupation by calling for the United Nations to send its peace-keeping troops into our city. His wild pitch came while on his way to meet with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support about persistent violence in the West and South sides. 

"I'm hoping to appeal [to] the UN to actually come to Chicago and meet with victims of violence and maybe even possibly help out in terms of peace keeping efforts," Boykin told the press.

When Trump calls out violence on the South and West sides, places he hasn't visited and has no sincere interest in helping, we should call that what it is: scaremongering and racial dog-whistling to some of his supporters. Trump's rhetoric paints the predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods of Chicago as areas inhabited by people not worthy of understanding or assistance--only subjugation.

Boykin's Trumpian call for UN intervention is not what his constituents, the families of Chicago's west side, need or deserve. Like Trump, his call for foreign troops to invade our communities is rooted in fear mongering: the idea that Chicago's crime is so out-of-control that only soldiers from Belgium, France, Germany and the like can keep it under control.

School closures, public sector layoffs and cuts, the shuttering of public housing and mental health clinics, and prolific mass incarceration helped create the conditions for devastating levels of gun violence. This is large-scale, intentional disinvestment and has forced tens of thousands of African-American families out of Cook County. 

Boykin is a key architect of this plan. The County budget that he championed will result in over 300 additional layoffs at a time when the black unemployment rate in Chicago ranks among the highest in the nation.

Yet instead of pursuing serious strategies to stop gun violence, the commissioner seeks to to flood our  streets of Austin with a militarized force with even less accountability than the Chicago Police Department.

Six hundred seventy Chicagoans were killed last year. Over 150 of them were Boykin's constituents, who lived in Austin, Garfield Park, and North Lawndale. Their deaths were not inevitable facts of nature, but the result of bad policy decisions made by out-of-touch elected officials.

Sending in the troops is not a real solution to gun violence. What is really required is massive public investment in working families, which means expandinggood public sector jobs, fully-funded public schools, arobust public healthcare system, social services and progressive revenue solutions that lead to job creation and neighborhood investment. 

For years, Boykin has championed County budgets that bring more violence, pain, and instability to working families. His Trumpian call for military occupation of Black Chicago is just more of the same failed approach.

michael@austinweeklynews.com