Chicago’s police chief and mayor recently condemned blatant criminality, and an invasion of the Magnificent Mile, the city’s 13-block oases in one of the most valuable tracts of real estate in America.
Policing, redlining, transportation, jobs and racial barriers have been dedicated to keeping the Black, the poor, and deprived in dark silos where desperation and criminality can reign and the White and the privileged can live in peace and security—far from the lives of menacing, unwanted people.
But a collision between life on the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s shopping, entertainment, luxury-while-you-live-reality, and the Miserable Miles of Black suffering has come. The police shooting of a young Black male, allegedly armed with a gun, in the poor majority Black neighborhood of Englewood inspired anger and a social media call to take from the rich by striking at Gucci, Apple, Nordstrom and other iconic brands by smashing and grabbing whatever was wanted.
City officials bristled at what they called brazen theft on the Magnificent Mile, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, and additional theft and destruction in nearby cozy White neighborhoods.
Chicago has a long history of housing discrimination and has long managed and controlled Black people, especially young people, in its downtown areas. When large groups of young Blacks have showed up, police have been there to corral them. When youth escape the narrow confines of neighborhoods offering little stimulation to enjoy a taste of the good life, security personnel have been there to monitor and manage.
When righteous anger over police violence or racial oppression has exploded and destruction followed, Blacks were often asked, “why are you destroying your own neighborhood? How does that help?”
Well, someone decided perhaps it didn’t. Instead of striking at the local Dollar Tree or Walgreen’s, the decision was made Aug. 9 to go where the White money was and take all you can get. Despite learning of the plan and placing 400 officers in the preserved area, Chicago cops were unable to stop or contain the unrest.
If riots are the language of the unheard, more than one message could be gleaned from the march on the Mile.
It’s easy to condemn the action as pure evil of opportunity not tied to any political, social movement or idea. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown, who must answer to the powers behind the Mile, boldly, vigorously declared thugs and thieves came out. They must be found, prosecuted, convicted and jailed, said the mayor and police chief.
That’s not the only possible message.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s followers and the Nation of Islam are known for obeying the law so long as law does not violate religion. We are taught you cannot steal from the thief who stole you and millions of your ancestors from Africa, stripped you of land, language and culture, your birthright and seeks to take or destroy anything you build in America. We are taught there is a higher principle and higher values beyond the hypocrisy of our former slavemasters who mouth words like justice, fairness, rule of law and daily deprive us of these things.
So Muslims are not lawbreakers and do not endorse lawbreaking.
But if the victims of a corrupt and exploitive society strike back and take, just as Whites in the past decided to strike and take the land of the Native Americans, what are we seeing? Are we seeing karma? Are we watching the seeds of a nation built of lying, murder and thievery come back in perennial bloom?
In 1967, in the wake of 43 people killed in riots in Detroit and more than 150 rebellions over a “long hot summer,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference gathering in Atlanta.
“A million words will be written and spoken to dissect the ghetto outbreaks, but for a perceptive and vivid expression of culpability I would submit two sentences written a century ago by Victor Hugo: If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness. The policy makers of the white society have caused the darkness; they created discrimination; they created slums; they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society. When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also declare that the white man does not abide by law in the ghettos. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions for civic services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them but do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison.”
Self-destruction and self-negation are applauded under the system of White supremacy, offering an automatic final solution to the race problem that can leave our oppressors free to deny any blame or responsibility.
But once the slave leaves the field and begins to wreak havoc in the Big House, a new level of danger rises. We should not be so foolish as to think the White power structure will not move to protect its safe space, its way of life and its investments. That not only means pushing for more police, more prosecutions and convictions today, it means moving to punish and dominate Black people tomorrow.
Whether in Chicago or anywhere else in this country, Whites don’t plan to simply surrender nor accept unwanted Black faces in White spaces, especially luxurious spaces. Their response will be vicious, calculated and designed to crush those who have the audacity to cross into their territory. We must be wise and vigilant. We must not underestimate hatred nor the lengths our oppressor will pursue to preserve themselves. Nothing in their history says they have limits, nor morals or scruples when it comes to dealing with the Black Problem.
This is a dangerous time and our people, especially our young people, must be careful. The enemy would like nothing more than to jail them, abuse them, slaughter them and to use criminality as a justifiable reason for exterminating them. We have a man in our midst, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, who can offer us guidance and safe passage through these especially dark times. We cannot ignore his voice and we cannot allow the enemy to stifle his voice. That voice, by Allah’s Grace, can get us off of the miserable miles Blacks have traveled for far too long.