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No matter the color of the finger on the trigger, we must stop the shootings

More responses to my thoughts on violence and the discussion of reparations for slavery.

Montrell Davis, 10, breaks down in tears as he talks about Chicago gun violence. Davis, Jackson and hundreds of people joined Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, for a Walk For Peach and the Stations of the Cross through Englewood on Good Friday
Montrell Davis, 10, breaks down in tears as he talks about Chicago gun violence during a march in 2017.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

This week’s column is another response to readers’ letters I received about my June 23 column on violence amid the recent national discussions on reparations for the descendants of black American slaves.

“Hi John,” a male reader writes. “I appreciate your thoughts and feelings about the issue of gun violence in the city. But are you physically doing anything to contribute to the successful cessation of the violence?

“With all due respect, I don’t mean for this question to be a criticism against you or your writing...” the reader adds.

Dear Sir, I mentor and speak to youth groups, and I continue to read to children at a local primary school. I believe that the link to much of the violence we see has to do with the lack of fathers in homes and positive male role models.

Male mentorship at local schools, through community organizations, churches and sports teams, I believe, can be key in reaching black boys before they get caught in the system. It’s more than a start, I think, for those of us who want to try and impact the community one child at a time.

A female reader writes: “John, I couldn’t agree with you more. Our deaths by our own hands seem to be just a mere fact of our lives, and so so so (a part of) what is a growing and perhaps unspoken sentiment.”

She adds: “Clamoring for reparations when there is so much untreated, ignored and unrepaired within our very own spheres of existence and structures leaves me numb and sad. I have thanked you before for your courageous and sometimes unpopular opinions. But bless you for remaining faithful to the highest truths.”

Thank you kindly, dear sister. I needed that. It was admittedly a little rough sailing after that piece. But I am encouraged, as my grandmother used to say, to “run on and see what the end’s gonna be.” Please keep me in your prayers.

Another writes: “The lack of reparative justice is the reason for lack of respect for Black lives. From lynchings to criminal justice system brutality, to killings of one another, the original injustice that you don’t want restoration for carries the weight of generational disrespect that befalls us today...

“Where there is no holistic restorative justice for government genocidal oppression, the oppressed become the instruments of their own oppression.”

I can’t argue with your assertion, sir, not at all. But how do we rise? How then do we stop the killing?

Another reader writes: “Crime in the Black community is an economic issue. And understand, white people define what crime is. …Reparations will ‘repair’ the economic damage done to our people and it’s only what’s just. Why the hell would you stand against such a thing?”

Dear brother, I don’t. I am for reparations. Not against.

Another reader writes: “Brother Fountain, Thank you for your recent column (on) reparations… We black folk refuse to discuss openly the epidemic of black-on-black shootings in Chicago for fear of de-emphasizing the national discussion on deadly police confrontations with young black males.

“As terrible as those police shootings are, the cops have a long way to go to catch up with us. Keep pounding the message. Thanks.”

Brother, thanks for your note. Dead is dead. And the shooting of us, no matter the color of the finger wrapped around the trigger, is no less a tragedy. Our fight against this evil must be on both fronts.

Police who are supposed to serve and protect must be held to a higher standard. And brothers must stop shooting one another. In the words of rapper Kool Moe Dee, on the Stop The Violence Movement’s song, “Self-Destruction” in the late 80s: “…I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan. And I shouldn’t have to run from a black man.”

Email John Fountain at Author@johnwfountain.com

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com