In the 1990s De La Soul recorded a song called “The Stakes is High.” One verse went, “Neighborhoods are now hoods because nobody’s neighbors.” This implied the loss of something central to a healthy community. Now, the loss of something central to civilization was actually proclaimed by a philosopher in the late 1880s. He announced the death of God, but he wasn’t referring to the crucified son; it was the father that was dead, killed off by an age of reason that believed humankind could invent morality without divine inspiration. The philosopher predicted this would have catastrophic results and the 20th century will descend into an age of nihilism. He also predicted the 21st century would be worse.
In 2016 Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, gave a speech at Malcolm X College. He addressed the violence that has haunted his tenure in office. He told the audience, “Just over two years ago, shootings and murders in Chicago were on a steady, downward slide. They were reduced to a level our city had not seen since 1965. Today, that hopeful trend has been reversed…ending this string of tragedies is our top priority as a city.”
Then, Chicago’s mayor announced three paths to confront the challenge.
The mayor stated, on the enforcement side, Chicago needs more police officers on the street (Beat officers). These officers will be assigned directly to the streets of communities, to work with their residents in partnership against violence…The second piece of this anti-crime blueprint is investing in communities and providing job opportunities, the best anti-crime program is a job. As far as prevention, the mayor pledged to invest $36 million over the next three years to expand mentoring programs.
Mayor Emanuel added, “We need to provide these young people with a moral education and a purpose.” (But does Democratic social policy have the philosophical foundation to combat the poverty of purpose?)
Recently, the Chicago Tribune stated that gun violence in 2018 has been well above recent years except for the past two. There have been close to 1,700 people shot and 300 homicides in the city, and on the weekend that began on Aug. 3 and ended Aug. 6, more than 60 people were shot and 11 died.
At a press conference, Mayor Emanuel announced a fourth path to confront this challenge.
He said, “This may not be politically correct, but I know the power of what faith and family can do. Our kids need that structure…I am…asking that we also don’t shy away from a full discussion about the importance of family and faith to develop and nurture character, self-respect, a value system and a moral compass that allows kids to know good from bad and right from wrong. We are going to discuss issues that have been taboo in years past because they are a part of the solution, and we cannot be scared to have this conversation.”
But many Black leaders were offended by Mayor Emanuel’s call for a spiritual renewal throughout the neighborhoods that are now hoods. The former CEO of the Chicago Urban League said, “Scolding the African American community for the ills of what’s happening in those communities is not helpful. It’s not correct. There’s no more religious, conservative, amazing community than the African American community. The African American community is resilient. The African American community survived this strife…It’s not fair to blame the victims of policies that have created their circumstances.”
Now, if Mayor Emanuel knew the New Testament as well as he knows the Torah, he could have reminded his critics that faith without works is dead.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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