BY JESSE JACKSON
August 9, 2016
Chicago is one of America’s greatest cities. Yet many of its residents
live in terror in what is virtually a war zone. When a demented killer
slayed 49 in a gun rampage in Orlando, Fla., there was national
attention. Presidential candidates called for escalating the fight
against the Islamic State in the Middle East, even though the killer
seems to be a homegrown terrorist.
But in Chicago, 404 have died in gun violence this year. According to
the Congressional Research Service, the murder rate averaged 16.0 per
100,000 a year from 2010-2014. That is nearly four times the national
average of 4.6 per 100,000 and nearly three times the Illinois state
These killings are not randomly distributed. African Americans
constitute about one-third of Chicago’s residents, but they account for
80 percent of its murder victims.
The killings are concentrated in endangered communities, communities
burdened with abject poverty and deplorable conditions. Desperation and
murder are segregated in Chicago.
In West Garfield Park, the average per capita income is $10,951. More
than 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, with an
unemployment rate greater than 25 percent.
In Englewood, the average per capita household income is $11,993.
Forty-two percent of households live below the poverty line, with an
unemployment rate over 21 percent.
In Fuller Park, per capita household income is $9,016, with a majority
— 55.5 percent — of households living below the poverty line. The
unemployment rate is 40 percent. Washington Park, North Lawndale,
Austin, Greater Grand Crossing, East Garfield Park … the list goes on.
During the height of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate
hovered at roughly 20 percent. These neighborhoods are suffering levels
twice that, now six years into the supposed recovery.
These are disaster zones in a supposedly world-class city. They look
like they are under siege, and to some extent they are. Drugs and guns,
violence and despair mark lives condemned to live in these zones.
The war in Iraq — one the Bush administration chose to launch — will
end up costing us more than $3 trillion. And of course, the wars go on
— in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, and now the U.S. is
beginning to bomb Libya.
But the right now disaster zones in Chicago are ignored. The everyday
violence is decried but nothing is done. The poverty is regretted but
there is no plan to attack it.
In fact, national policy does more to expand the divide between
endangered communities and affluent ones, between those living in the
disaster zone and those living uptown.
A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for
Enterprise Development details the growing racial wealth gap in America.
They find that without a drastic change in policy, by 2043, when people
of color are projected to account for more than half of the U.S.
population, the racial wealth divide between white households and
African American and Latino households will have doubled from about
$500,000 in 2013 to more than $1 million.
The gap reflects the impact of historic inequities — from federally
sanctioned housing discrimination to private redlining — but its
expansion is fueled in part by tax policies that aid the highest earners
while providing the lowest income families with virtually nothing.
Over the past 20 years alone, the report finds, the federal government
spent more than $8 trillion through tax programs to assist families in
building long-term wealth, including saving for retirement, purchasing a
home, starting a business or paying for college. But the impact of these
expenditures has been “upside down.” With typical millionaires pocketing
about $145,000 in public tax benefits each year to increase their wealth
while working families receive a total of $174 on average.
More of the same won’t help. Adding benefits to the wealthy few —
like Donald Trump’s call to end the estate tax — will add to the
inequity and contribute to the despair. If nothing changes, the
desperate zones will get worse. Surely this crisis is worthy of debate
in the presidential campaign, and action from the White House and