Dear President Trump,
You seem to have a strong dislike towards Chicago. Is it due to the fact that Chicago was the only city in the country, during your presidential campaign, where you were afraid to take the stage in? Or is it because former President Obama adopted Chicago as his hometown? I know you weren’t a fan of Obama since you called him, “the Founder of ISIS” and declared for years that he wasn’t born in America.
Okay, so you have two reasons to not like our city. But beyond that I’m not sure why you are so obsessed with Tweeting or talking badly about Chicago. You just criticized Chicago again in your pep rally in Florida this weekend. If you want to actually help our city, then you should listen to people from Chicago. You shouldn’t meet with people who aren’t from here to talk about us. Just like that pastor from Ohio who claimed on live TV that “top gang thugs” from Chicago wanted to meet with you. Except that after his bold proclamation on national television, he admitted he “misspoke”, i.e. had lied about that.
So for Presidents’ Day, I thought long and hard and I decided to give you a gift. As a high school Social Studies teacher in Chicago, I decided to teach you about Chicago and specifically why we do not want the Feds to come to our city.
Don’t think I am singling you out due to your political party either. Many of us in Chicago have been trying to teach our own Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel the same things that I am about to teach you, but he refuses to listen. He claims he cares about our city and our people, but his policies prove he doesn’t. I don’t want you to follow in his footsteps.
Now to your lesson on Chicago:
A few things to note President Trump, Chicago is not the wild west.
There is no doubt that certain neighborhoods in our city have very high levels of violence (I will address that in more depth shortly), but it is important you know that while some neighborhoods have increases in violence, many other neighborhoods have seen decreases in violence. The parts of Chicago that are funded appropriately are beautiful, which is why Chicago is the third most visited city in the U.S. I mean, you should know the downtown is beautiful, you do own the hotel in Trump Tower, right on the Chicago River.
In fact, contrary to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions and you say, crime is not up nationally, it is down. In addition, the police in Chicago have way too much power, so you can cool it with your Executive Orders giving police more power. Did you read the recent scathing Department of Justice Report on systemic abuses by the Chicago Police? Included in it were policies that promote a Code of Silence, poor training methods, harassment, abuse, torture at a secret facility, and murder, all done to the residents of Chicago, by the police. The Chicago Police continue to take life, while accounting for 39% of our city’s entire operating budget, which is $4 million dollars per day. In addition, Chicago Police brutality cases have cost our city half a Billion dollars.
In fact, Chicago does not even make the top ten of the most violent cities per capita in the country.
But sadly, violence is an issue in parts of our city, so lets address it.
There is no doubt that certain neighborhoods in our city are not anywhere as safe as they should be. As a Chicago Public Schools teacher for the past ten years, I have personally seen and experienced the impact that the violence has had on my students, their families, my colleagues, and myself.
Here is the thing about violence, hardly anyone would choose to commit crimes or be violent if there were other options. The issue is that the amount of other options are extremely limited, in particular in our most vulnerable and violent neighborhoods.
You yourself said Chicago’s violence is, “very fixable.” I hope that means you are willing to address the root causes of the violence.
Chicago, through the purposeful segregation policies of redlining, restrictive covenants, and eminent domain over the years, has been divided into a city of “haves” and “have nots.” Generally, downtown and the North side of the city are the “haves” and the South and West sides are the “have nots.”
Those of us who live in Chicago know that jobs and investment in struggling communities, which includes public schools, is the key to stopping violence. The investment in these communities should improve the lives of the residents, rather then push them out. As one Chicago writer says, “Want to fix Chicago? Invest in its people, embrace the idea that the rest of the city matters, not just the North Side.” Chicago has also closed half of its mental health clinics which were primarily located on the South and West sides. Now the largest primary provider of mental health in the entire country (yes, I said entire country) is the Cook County Jail located here in Chicago.
We need to stop diverting money away from neighborhoods that need it the most. This money has been stolen from the neighborhoods and used for things like new stadiums and beautification of our already beautiful downtown. We need to fully fund our public schools and create new revenue options to do that. Another Chicago writer said we need to “Talk about the systemic issues.” We need to talk about how people do not have job options in far too many neighborhoods in our city.
The way Chicago Public Schools are run is also terrible and contributes to the violence. The Mayor has complete control over our schools. He closed the most schools in the history of our country and has continually cut school funding. He picks the members of the school board, who show their gratitude for being appointed by doing whatever he says. This includes opening new charter schools, even though charters are proven no more effective than public schools. The person in charge of our school district has ZERO educational experience. All of these school closings, funding cuts and diversions of money to charter schools by our Mayor have and continue to harm our students and our city, which in turn is tied into the violence.
A Chicago organizer puts it clearly, “”Poverty is violence, and it exacerbates violence… If you give people access to mental health care, education, you give them the opportunity to realize their full humanity. And we’re denied that.”
To put it simply we do NOT need to give the police more power. We do NOT need more police. We need to create jobs and fund our public schools and our neighborhoods.
People need jobs.
Services need to be provided.
Schools need to be fully funded.
All neighborhoods need to be equitably funded.
I hope you appreciate the gift I am giving you. I am saving you some work on investigating the root causes of violence in our city. You don’t need to send the Feds to our city… unless the purpose of them coming is to get rid of our mayor. Just kidding, kind of.
But I guess all this to say, I would like to ask you to stop talking bad about our city.
Or, as the kids say, just take the name Chicago out of your mouth.
An actual resident of Chicago
P.S. Release your tax returns.
To view this piece on Huffington Post click here.