Special Correspondent: Kanu TBTNews
As Chicagoans struggle to come to grips with intractable violence in black and brown neighborhoods, occasionally distracted by debates over what to even call this phenomenon (think: Chiraq), Kanu Iheukumere, chief policy and research officer at Bethel New Life has been addressing the root cause: Poverty. He was recently featured in Crain’s Chicago Business, where he explained the intersection of violence and social terror, and lack of opportunity.
Home to nearly 2,000 gun violence victims this year, Chicago is in the grip of an epidemic afflicting poor communities: We’ve allowed the symptom—gun violence—to be mistaken for the underlying systemic problem, poverty.
Poverty is the Gun: Poverty blocks new business creation, makes dead ends out of efforts to create jobs and divests of public education, while killing, stealing and destroying families. Poverty is the gun aiming its scope on the black and brown; arming the shrewd few as they dupe the disenfranchised many into fighting the wrong battles. Poverty sends communities into a cycle of concentrated isolation and maddening chaos.
In Chicago, we have failed to develop sustainable remedies to revitalize marginalized communities because we’ve been distracted by symptoms rather than going after the root cause: lack of access to economic on-ramps and reticence of leaders to foster bold solutions. Consider the windy rhetoric wasted on whether filmmaker Spike Lee should call his movie Chiraq, a moniker we’ve earned by repeatedly failing to act comprehensively through robust public-private partnerships. Poverty flourishes when education reform shortcuts, such as the rush to the unproven, disruptive force known as charter schools, substitute for real achievement. Real guns hurt when young people have no place to play or be enriched by cultural programming.
Symptom management will never solve poverty. And we don’t need a Katrina, either. To face the gun down, government officials, the private sector and community leaders must develop scalable and replicable strategies to change the fabric of poverty…..
(This is part-one of a two-part series written by Kanu)