The Latest: Family Recalls Slain Chicago Teen as ‘Jokester’

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dealing with survivor’s guilt in Chicago: Why I refuse to watch the Laquan McDonald video.

Having grown up on the streets of Chicago’s South Side, there’s a painful numbness that takes hold whenever I see headlines declaring that the police have gunned down yet another black person.CHICAGO (CBS) — Vowing a full day of protests across Chicago, activists were keeping up the pressure for major changes in Chicago after the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.CHICAGO (STMW) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s revamped Police Board on Thursday launched a nationwide search for a new police superintendent amid concern that the furor over the Laquan McDonald shooting video and a federal civil rights investigation could diminish interest in the $260,000-a-year job.

From the time that I was five years old, my grandmother taught my cousin and I how to fall to the floor and dodge gunfire from the police or gangs, even within the walls of her Englewood home. With protesters already repeatedly calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, and some even pushing for legislation to allow voters to remove him from office, Trotter and two other South Side ministers have begun a petition drive seeking a vote of “no confidence” in the mayor. “Our mayor’s ratings are dropping daily, and people need to have a way to protest, who cannot necessarily march,” said Bishop Larry Trotter, pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church. With a “code of silence” to eliminate and bridges to rebuild in the African-American community, the Police Board has established a tight time frame to fill the position held since May 2011 by larger-than-life Police Supt. The pastors said the petitions would be used in support of proposed legislation in Springfield that would allow for a mayoral recall election in Chicago. “This is war, and in war there are going to be casualties, and there are going to be friendly fire.

The ministers said the petition drive will continue through the end of the month, after which the petitions will be delivered to the mayor as a message to him. Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, who is also co-chairing Emanuel’s Task Force on Police Accountability, called the search for McCarthy’s replacement “one of the most important” in Chicago history. “Anybody who has been following what’s transpiring in Chicago policing over the last two weeks understands we face challenges. Protesters have said they have no confidence in Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, after it took her more than a year to file charges against Van Dyke.

It’s a chance to rebuild a great organization and put one’s personal stamp on best-in-class practices for policing from top-to-bottom and really be a visionary in 21st century policing. I survived that period of my life, but I know how easy it can be for young black men (and women) to get caught up by the system or gunned down in the streets. Other community activists have turned their sights on Chicago aldermen for their role in the scandal, demanding answers about why they approved a $5 million settlement for McDonald’s family without first learning all the facts of the case. Lightfoot contended that is not necessary since “anybody worth their salt in law enforcement knows this position is open.” But the board is advertising in a host of law enforcement trade publications and using its “extensive contacts” to network with potential candidates across the nation.

It would be the first time a member of McDonald’s family has spoken publicly since the dashboard camera video of his shooting was released two-and-a-half weeks ago. For example, candidates will be asked to define “accountability in the context of policing” and to identify the “best practices for early-warning systems” for officers whose actions trigger multiple citizen complaints. Such was the case last year, when a 17-year-old teen named Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by a police officer “worried” for his safety.

They will also be asked how they “assess and address bias-based policing” and how the message gets “articulated to the police force and executed” all the way down to officers on the beat. Having witnessed my city’s violence firsthand, I see no need to watch yet another video of a young black person’s final moments, even as two more make headlines this week. I do not need to further be reminded that these scenarios could’ve played out in my own family, a tight-knit clan including outspoken men who could be one pointed remark away from being choked to death like an Eric Garner, and intelligent women who could be one “traffic stop” away from death in a cell like Sandra Bland.

Although the feds will be looking over the new superintendent’s shoulder for years and the Fraternal Order of Police is resisting changes to the disciplinary process, Lightfoot claimed she’s not concerned that McCarthy’s shoes will be tough to fill. “Other departments have had similar experiences and had other people come in and lead them. There’s no denying that Chicago, like many other large urban centers, has yet to substantively address issues of poverty, inequality, and lack of access to opportunity for black people and other people of color—especially compared to their relatively more affluent, white neighbors.

We cannot divorce McDonald’s death—and the deaths of many others that have occurred before and since—from the social conditions that have engendered a continuous struggle for black communities and black young people in the city. This situation presents a tremendous opportunity for the right person,” she said. “Responsible people in our community recognize that we must have a strong and vibrant police force that does the job the right way with respect for people they’re sworn to protect. Combined with the overpolicing of communities of color and aberrant disciplinarian educational environments for black students, structural racism fuels the criminalization, crime, and imprisonment that has long ensnared many black and brown people. Not long after the 2011 election of Rahm Emanuel, the mayor went on a rampage against Chicago’s public schools, slating roughly 50 “failing” elementary and high schools for closure as part of cost-cutting measures. As Chicago’s Daily Southtown reported in March, Illinois schools have the most unfair funding structure in the nation, representing the nation’s largest funding gap—one based almost exclusively on a property tax-based funding structure.

According to the Chicago Public Schools’ latest data from the 2014-2015 school year, only 9% of its students are white, while roughly 45% are Hispanic and 39% are black. And as the Chicago Tribune reported, only 14% of students who start out as freshmen in the CPS will graduate from a college or university by their mid-20s. It’s why my parents, along with others in our family, sacrificed to send their kids to parochial schools and “gifted” programs as alternatives to the subpar neighborhood public schools. Absent that decision, there’s little chance I would’ve ever attended the elite high schools and universities that proved integral to my current career path and life opportunities. It shouldn’t be of much surprise, then, that the Chicago Teachers Union has joined ongoing protests calling for accountability in the death of McDonald.

The 17-year-old was a longtime ward of the state who reportedly made A’s and B’s at Sullivan House High School, a school which caters primarily to at-risk and dropout students. And yet we heard again the same “feared for my life” script referenced ad nauseam when officers attempt to justify their excessive, homicidal use of force.

Black people in particular have witnessed the city’s crime rates increase and its school system begin to crumble, even as beautiful new skyscrapers sprouted throughout downtown—and they cared. This isn’t about so-called black-on-black crime or black people not taking care of its own, this is about the concerns of black Chicagoans being ignored in the halls of government.

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