Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being criticized for saying that a lack of morals in some communities is to blame for the escalating violence rocking the city this summer.
“This may not be politically correct,” he said, “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 helping 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.”
He added: “If we’re going to solve this … we’ve got to have a real discussion. … Parts of the conversation cannot be off-limits because it’s not politically comfortable. … We are going to discuss issues that have been taboo in years past because they are part of the solution. … We also have a responsibility to help nurture character. It plays a role. Our kids need that moral structure in their lives. And we cannot be scared to have this conversation.”
Emanuel also raised hackles by tackling the idea of a “moral community.”
“Everybody is pointing at somebody. The criminal, the criminal activity, the gang have to be raised, not just ‘what did the police do?’ ” Emanuel said then. “Legitimate questions, but not in lieu of another set of questions, not in lieu of asking where is the individual or the gang or the culture who condones rather than condemns?”
The mayor continued to say that the “question of what a moral community is” needed to be addressed, along with questioning his decisions and the policies of the Police Department. Mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot, whom Emanuel appointed to two city policing panels, has criticized the mayor’s remarks as a form of “victim shaming.”
Since Emanuel is a Democrat, he wasn’t called a racist for something that would get any Republican who said something similar identified as a Kluxer. Instead, Emanuel is just “wrong,” according to a prominent black politician running for state attorney general, Kwame Raoul.
During Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair, Raoul was asked if the mayor’s remarks amounted to the mayor “talking down to black people.”
“I think for the mayor to make a generalization about a community is more than just misspoken, it’s outright wrong,” said Raoul, who holds former President Barack Obama’s old state Senate seat and has received his endorsement in the attorney general race.
“We have communities that have not been invested in. We have communities where mental health services have been depleted. We have communities that have suffered as a result of the budget impasse in Springfield. All of these combined, along with the closing of schools, what does one expect?” Raoul said. “What does one expect to evolve from these communities if you don’t invest in these communities and you don’t invest in the children within those communities?”
Both men are right. Chicago is suffering through the worst spasm of violence in a major American city in a long time. Unfortunately, city government has chosen to address the crisis by ignoring the fundamental reasons for the violence and has, instead, concentrated on ludicrous ideas like gun control and “reforming” the police department.
In fact, one of those reforms being vigorously opposed by both the police and Emanuel is the suggested requirement that officers must file a report if they point their weapon at someone. Burying police in paperwork will not make anyone safer. Nor will adding to the already draconian gun control laws on the books.
Raoul is right — to a point. All the money in the world is not going to fix what ails these communities, although lord knows they could use more for schools and infrastructure. And Emanuel is right — to a point. You’ve got to have faith to have morals and the people in these neighborhoods lost faith a long time ago.
So for the time being, Chicago must rely on its much maligned, overworked police department to prevent the total breakdown of society. Never has the “Thin Blue Line” looked thinner and never has it been more under siege.
Perhaps both Emanuel and Raoul can agree that the complex problems of violence and gangs could use both a little honest talk about race and morals as well as more cash from government.
What a breakthrough that would be.