In the Southside of Chicago on the afternoon of Monday, November 2, in broad daylight, nine year old Tyshawn Lee was shot in the face and body multiple times. This innocent child on his way to play basketball was hunted down and killed in the street like a rabid dog. The apparent motive of the shooting was a vendetta against Tyshawn’s father Pierre Stokes, a member of a rival gang. The father is not talking.
On the day that Tyshawn was laid to rest in a child’s casket, Republican candidates, only an hour away, were doing their last minute reviews before the presidential debate held that evening in Milwaukee. Even though the funeral and debate happened on the same day only a short distance apart, it was as if they happened on different planets, indeed in different universes. The presidential candidates never acknowledged the vicious murder of Tyshawn, and the moderators never asked a question about it. While the candidates were practicing Democracy, Chicago was practicing death.
Milwaukee has its own inner city problems. During their July 4th fireworks celebration, only 150 feet from where sixty cops were gathered, a fifteen year old was gunned down in broad daylight. The murder rate in Milwaukee is already 20% higher than it was for all of 2014. The presidential candidates and their moderators must not have known because the subject of inner city violence never came up.
It is true that the debate was about the economy, not murders of young children in the streets of our cities. However, there is an undeniable relationship between the economic depression in America’s inner cities and the crime and violence which plagues them.
Black Americans have an unemployment rate of 12%, more than twice the average. They have an underemployment rate of 20.5%.The average white family earns $50,400. The average black family earns $32,038. That’s down from $34,880 when President Obama took office, an 8% loss of income. Hispanic Americans also lag behind the rest of the country. Urban areas comprise a significant part of the American economy which desperately needs attention. Why is there no discussion at the national level by either party on a plan to address this very pressing nationwide problem?
The presidential candidates have recently talked about the tragic impact of drugs on their own families. Ted Cruz lost a sister. Carly Fiorina lost a daughter. Jeb Bush talked about his daughter’s struggle with addiction. Yet while blacks are 12% of the population, they are 23% of the reported treatments for drug addiction and overdose. The drug epidemic in the inner city has not been mentioned in a single debate, nor has the role drugs play in crime and violence.
We have gone from the War on Poverty to the War on Drugs to benign neglect. All three approaches have failed miserably. It is time to try what has never been tried before – a private sector plan to save America’s cities. A seething frustration lurks just beneath the surface of our cities, threatening to spill into the broader community. If we do not confront it, it will confront us.
Government funding is not the answer. Presidential leadership however, could be of immense help in assembling corporate, educational, law enforcement and church leaders. The bully pulpit of POTUS has the influence to bring these divergent forces together. Urban areas need entrepreneurial support, mentors, technical education and yes, spiritual guidance and encouragement. The worsening horrors of the ghetto, like the brutal murder of Tyshawn Lee, should be enough to move politicians and pundits to make it a matter for public discussion and action.
If the heartless murders of children in our cities is not enough to get their attention, what will it take? In the coming weeks STAND – Staying True to America’s National Destiny – will unveil Project CREATE, a private sector plan to rescue America’s cities. How many more businesses and neighborhoods will be destroyed by riots? How many more police will be killed? How many more Tyshawn Lees will die? It is time for political, business and religious leaders to come together to defeat crime, drugs, gangs and poverty in America’s cities, once and for all.