EYE ON ILLINOIS: Black Caucus’ pillars reveal holistic approach to systemic reform

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That’s my request as you learn about the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda for the fall veto session: Don’t miss the message.

Caucus members Tuesday detailed their four policy pillars: Criminal justice reform, violence and police accountability; education and workforce development; economic access, equity and opportunity; and health care and human services.

Judging on reader feedback whenever I approach issues of racial equity, a decent percentage of you stopped reading after the first pillar and started composing your response about police work in minority communities.

I don’t want to deprive anyone of their opinions here, and I will take in any critique. But please, give these lawmakers and community leaders the respect of actually hearing their words.

“This city had more than 500 murders before September,” said Brendan Shiller, a civil rights lawyer and founder of Chicago’s Westside Justice Center, which hosted Tuesday’s conference. “We have a flood of pain coming to our communities over the next several months and couple years. We know how to stop the flood, we know how to stop crime and violence. It’s education, it’s health care, it’s housing, it’s mental health, it’s jobs, it’s youth recreation — this ain’t a secret!”

These aren’t new ideas. Shiller’s remarks evoked the famous hierarchy of needs, which psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed in 1943. To broadly paraphrase the concept — not unique to Maslow — basic necessities form the bottom of a pyramid of human development.

My inference from Shiller is similar: we don’t stop violence by telling people not to be violent, we make sure their needs are met. We don’t let them wonder about their next meal or where they’ll sleep. We make sure they never think twice about seeing a doctor or therapist. We make sure the kids have good schools and chances to explore the arts, athletics and other enrichment activities. 

These aren’t just Chicago issues; there are Black families throughout Illinois. It’s not just a youth mindset; the pillars focus on developing a solid labor force and working for equality of opportunity when it comes to starting businesses, getting loans and investing in property. Neither are they strictly Black issues; poverty knows no race, and Illinois has miles to go before it can be said all its young people have equal opportunities.

But if you shut down upon encountering phrases like “police accountability” and “systemic racism,” you’ll miss the big picture. We should listen to our neighbors when they tell us they’re hurting and fully engage with their ideas for solutions.

Yes, it is important to discuss how nonwhite communities are policed. But the people pushing for change know that’s only part of the equation.

Don’t miss the message — the entire message.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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via | Northwest Herald

September 2, 2020 at 06:12AM

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