Killing Black Children on The Front End and On the Back

Two major news announcements were made in Chicago on Friday.  And I find a striking and sickening parallel between them. The first piece of buried news was the release of the available video of the shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old Black “man” last week at the hands of a Chicago Police officer.  The second was the announcement that 480 Chicago Public Schools teachers are being laid off.

I call these announcements “buried” news for two reasons.  First, because these announcements were made on Friday afternoon.  Fridays are a great time to release news when your hope is that the fewest possible people will see it.  But, the second reason I call these announcements “buried” news is that both of them are symbolic of systems that contribute to killing young Black people in this city and in this country much earlier and at much higher rates than should be acceptable.

Am I being overly dramatic?  You tell me.

In America, African Americans are about 13% of the total population and yet we make up 37% of the prison population.  A Black man is far more likely to be stopped, arrested and killed by police than his White counterpart.  And the evidence suggest that these realities are created by the overly criminal behavior of Black folks.  In fact, African Americans are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs, commit violent crimes or violate traffic laws than White Americans.  It is a discriminatory system that daily kills the spirit, the hope and yes sometimes the physical body of too many young Black people: like Paul O’Neal.  The teenager who was shot in the back last week by a Chicago cop.

And how about the education system?  The layoff of teachers will surely be bandied about by the Chicago Teachers Union as a sign of disregard on the part of the district for the teaching profession and as another load heaped upon a building pile of irrefutable evidence that they should strike.  But, the Chicago Teachers Union will be at best only half right.  The real point is that our public schools are in real trouble.  Trouble that no doubt, the Chicago Teachers Union helped to create.  The trouble in our system might be symbolized by this latest round of teacher layoffs, but these layoffs are not the greatest crime.  The greatest crime is that after generations of failure to deliver the high quality education that African American children deserve, there is still no all out effort to reform everything.

The madness has to stop. And we have to stop it now. Our children’s lives have to mean more to us.

By failing to bring major reform to our criminal justice system and continuing to allow our students to be cheated out of a quality education, we are significantly limiting their options in life.  

You might say that we’re killing black children on the front end and on the back.

The following two tabs change content below.
Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.