The Fourth of July weekend used to mean backyard barbecues and sidewalk fireworks.
But this year, I passed up invitations to gather with family and friends because I didn’t want to risk “becoming an unintended target.”
That’s where we are now.
You don’t have to be gang or drug-related, or be involved in an explosive domestic partnership, or even be the target of robbers and carjackers to get shot.
Too often, the people who end up taking a bullet are like the woman who was one of the Chicagoans wounded by gunfire over the holiday.
The woman was climbing the stairs to her Far South Side home when a stray bullet grazed her head.
By Monday afternoon, 13 people had been killed and at least 58 others wounded in holiday weekend shootings across the city since Thursday night. Two more were shot dead by police.
That’s despite the “Put The Guns Down” campaign that Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched before Memorial Day with the help of popular local radio DJs.
Although there was at least one shooting in Uptown and in the Irving Park area, most of the carnage was confined to neighborhoods on the South and West sides, where law-abiding citizens are trapped behind enemy lines.
Emanuel called the number of shootings “simply unacceptable.”
“The solution does not just include policing. We also have to give our young people alternatives to the street, and as a community we need to demand more of ourselves and our neighbors,” the mayor said in a statement.
But innocent victims can’t wait until more people volunteer as mentors or more businesses agree to invest in low-income areas.
They can’t wait for better schools to take hold or for more churches to take the gospel to the streets, or for more errant fathers and neglectful mothers to make child-rearing a priority.
Chicagoans need relief now.
Unfortunately, it is still easier for teens to get their hands on a deadly weapon than it is for them to get a library card.
Warren Robinson, 16, was killed in Gresham on Saturday night after police said the teen crawled from under a car and pointed a .387 caliber semiautomatic pistol at two police officers.
In Portage Park, police shot and killed Pedro Rios, 14, after he also allegedly pointed a gun at officers.
For some of us, the violence has changed the way we live our daily lives.
We have to think about how to avoid getting caught between groups of young black men on the street because the possibility of violence erupting is real and not paranoia.
Chicago has weathered the outbreak of gang and youth violence before, especially in public housing developments where warring factions battled over gang and drug turf.
But then police didn’t hesitate to go from door to door if they had to in search of illegal guns.
Now that the violence has migrated to predominantly black communities on the South and West sides, there’s a reluctance to use aggressive policing tactics.
But according to the Chicago Police Department, 3,390 firearms have been seized in the city since the beginning of the year — the most recovered in any other city this year.
Yet last year, the mayor was unable to get the state to significantly increase jail time for criminals caught with illegal guns.
And while police are allowed to set up roadblocks to check for impaired drivers, or to check if you’re wearing a seatbelt, elected officials are opposed to any type of stop-and-frisk policing strategy.
But working-class and poor people have become the collateral damage in a culture war that most of us refuse to acknowledge.
While the rest of the city was celebrating the nation’s independence, there was little to celebrate in the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.