By Jesse Jackson Sr.
In Chicago last week, a 14-year-old girl was shot as she was leaving Wendell Phillips Academy High School for the day. On the South Side, a 17-year-old boy was shot while riding his bike. Across the city, 12 people were shot that same day.
Have we become accustomed to these horrors? The shootings were reported. There was grief among friends and family, but no outrage in the community.
Shootings have become routine, expected. In Chicago, 325 children were shot in 2020, 56 were killed. Thus far this year in Chicago, 3,567 people have been shot, 352 of them children under the age of 18. This loss of life is down from its peak in the early 1990s, but the numbers are still unimaginable.
The Rev. Martin Luther King taught that people react to their oppression in three different ways. Some acquiesce. They silently adjust to the oppression and become conditioned to it. When Moses sought to lead the children of Israel from slavery, he found that slaves do not always welcome their deliverers. They had adjusted to being slaves.
Some react, King noted, with “physical violence and corroding hatred.” They seek to injure those who have injured them. They would pick up the gun to fight those who oppress them. The result, King warned, is a spiral of violence that ends in destruction for all. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
The third way is by nonviolent resistance. The nonviolent resisters agree that oppression cannot be accepted but refuse to add to the violence. Nonviolent resistance requires organizing and action, confrontation and a resolute refusal to accept the oppression.
Gun violence is a brutal oppression in our neighborhoods. We cannot condition ourselves to accept it. Picking up a gun will only add to more gun violence. We must be confronted with nonviolent resistance. It is time to break the cycle of violence. It is time to save the children.
We must dam the flood of guns into our communities. The gun lobby that corrupts politicians to weaken or block sensible gun control laws should be outed and confronted.
The culture that romanticizes murder and violence must be criticized; those profiting from gun violence should be challenged. We need communities to come together and to pledge not only to stop the violence, but to end the protection of those who commit it.
Black Lives Matter. The murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis last year sparked the largest multiracial nonviolent demonstrations in this nation’s history.
In cities across the country, calls resounded for ending the code of silence among police that protects the violent. Proposals for reforming the police, for greater training, more accountability and changing the way they work were put forth. Some progress has been made, but we have a long way to go.
Police must be held accountable, and those responsible must break the zone of silence that protects the officers who take the lives of those they have pledged to protect. At the same time, as members of a community, all of us are accountable.
In too many instances, someone knows who pulled the trigger and took a life. Yet too often, the perpetrator goes free, because the information is not shared with the police, a testament to the lack of trust that now exists. But responsible citizens, like responsible police officers, must break the silence that shields those who murder children from accountability.
This year in Chicago, more than 10 people will be shot each day. At least one child per day will be shot. More than a child a week will be killed. We cannot condition ourselves to accept this savage oppression.
We must act to break the cycle of violence, to save the children. Silence is a surrender. It is time to act.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is president and founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition.