A Matter Of Life And Death

“Twenty two.  That’s the number of times gunshots have rung out in Davenport since Jan. 1. In January alone, police responded to 19 shootings and shots-fired calls, nearly triple the number reported in January 2015.”  So began the lead article in today’s Quad City Times, the local newspaper serving the metro area of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa; Moline and Rock Island, Illinois.

Davenport itself is a city of approximately 100,000 nestled in that quad cities arrangement along the Mississippi River which brings the area number up closer to 400,000. But these twenty two shots were fired in Davenport alone. And even a cursory glance at the front page diagram showing where these incidents occurred reveal the overwhelming majority of them on the near west side of town, a predominantly African American community where gang life and the drug culture thrive.

A 65 year old resident of the area gives new neighbors his name and phone number so that they can call him in case of an emergency. He says he has the police department on speed dial so he can ring them up in a hurry, if needed. His next statement, however, speaks volumes:

“I’ve watched the neighborhood.  It goes in circles. As long as there are homeowners, the neighborhood is good. But when they start giving up homes and slumlords take over, everything goes downhill.”

And there, in the voice of experience, you have an eloquent statement of the complexity of the gun violence situation in this country. I bow to no one in my support of sensible gun laws which can keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. But, until we address the societal problems of income inequality and racism, we will not begin to approach a solution.

As long as young, Black men are treated as less than human, denied quality education and good jobs, they will consume and sell cheap narcotics to dull the pain, organized crime will move in to capitalize on this market, and some of the users will be sucked into becoming dealers because it is a quick way to get the dollars necessary to finance their habit. Vicious cycle does not begin to describe it.

So, when we hear our presidential candidates speak of their proposed solutions to poverty and violence, to job creation and educational reform, listen closely. These are not just stock phrases. They affect real, live human beings.

It is a matter of life and death.

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