It was late on Memorial Day in 2017. The night was surprisingly cool; it felt more like early spring than early summer. My younger brother was sitting in a parked car on the South Side of Chicago with a couple of his friends.
Two men approached, pulled automatic pistols, and started firing.
Bullets ripped through the car. Shattered windows. Punctured steel. And then skin. Later, the police would count 25 shell casings.
When my mother called me, all she could get out was “Your brother’s . . .” and “There was a shooting . . .” Too many anxious seconds passed before I could pull from her which of my brothers had been shot and whether he was alive. Throughout, I stood alone in my Washington, DC, apartment, powerless and shaking with anger and sadness.
My brother had survived, I finally learned, and we thank God for that every day. But make no mistake, I could just as easily be discussing him in the past tense. My brother’s best friend died in his arms that night. Shot through the back and into his heart. Both young men covered in blood: two more victims of the violence of Chicago.
That’s my family story, as written in my book, “Taken for Granted.” We still don’t know why the shooting happened. The assailants were never caught. But gun violence generally grew so bad since that incident, we had to move my younger brother out of town because even just walking to a bus stop to get to work could have been a death sentence for him.
Tragically, his situation is all too common in Chicago.
On the latest episode of my podcast, “Outloud with Gianno Caldwell,” I discuss the violence ravaging Chicago with La Shawn Ford, a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Ford represents one of the hardest-hit, most violent areas in the entire city.
On the podcast, Ford, a leading voice in the state House, admits Democrats have failed black people, especially because of the violence in Chicago. He says blacks should demand action from the city’s elected officials.
If Ford can admit his party has failed, perhaps it’s time for new leadership in the office of Chicago’s mayor — and radically new policy to combat the constant stream of bullets.
When he was the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel infamously refused the offer of federal resources from the sitting president, Donald Trump. Why? Because Emanuel disagreed with Trump’s politics. I guess the black bodies dying in the streets of Chicago didn’t constitute an urgent enough issue for Emanuel to welcome the president’s help.
Since then, and under new mayoral leadership, the violence in Chicago has gotten worse. As of this writing, at least 1,042 people have been shot in Chicago this year — 225 more than in 2020 — and there have been at least 195 homicides.
Chicago has experienced an increase in violent crime just like many other liberal cities, which have allowed criminals to run free. Places like Portland, Los Angeles and New York have all sided with criminals over law enforcement in the name of some new form of social justice that happens to make its most vulnerable citizens, the black and brown people who these cities’ left-wing leaders claim to support, more unsafe.
As John Kass writes in his latest column for the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her city “careen from one crisis to another, from the waves of downtown looting she couldn’t stop, to businesses shuttered by Chicago violence and the pandemic, to public schools staying closed for most of the year while private schools remained mostly open. To more street violence.”
I realize the mayor isn’t the only person at fault. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has also failed the city and county. During her first three years as the county’s top prosecutor from late 2016 through November 2019, she dismissed more than 25,000 felony cases, including murder cases.
Indeed, Foxx’s office dropped all charges against an astounding 29.9 percent of felony defendants — a dramatic increase over her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, whose rate for the last three years of her tenure was 19.4 percent.
This is pretty simple: If criminals think they can get away with their crimes, they’ll be emboldened to commit more crimes, including violent ones.
Something must change. As I write in “Taken for Granted,” the situation in Chicago is just getting worse.
During the years I was growing up in Chicago, in order for you to be a victim of such violence, you had to be in some way involved in “the life.” There were exceptions, of course. But for the most part, you had to be in a gang, be close friends with gang members, or be shopping for drugs on some side street in one of a couple of known bad blocks. Today, however, everyone is a target, and any block can turn into a “bad” one in an instant. Today’s bullets soar indiscriminately through neighborhoods, finding targets of any age or gender — a 5-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, a 7-year-old girl in a McDonald’s drive-thru, a senior citizen watering his grass. That’s the real difference between now and before.
As Ford told me on my podcast, black folks in Chicago must demand change from their elected officials and not let up.
I would also add that they need to start snitching on those committing crimes — because the way things are going in Chicago, the next bullet could have their name on it.
Gianno Caldwell is a Fox News Political Analyst.