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Gun violence is hitting Chicago’s Black and Brown communities from all sides

The plight of young Black and Brown teens growing up in city’s gun-infested neighborhoods is terrible to contemplate.

A memorial for Anthony Alvarez is set up at North Laramie Avenue and West Eddy Street in the Portage Park neighborhood, near the spot where Alvarez was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“Oh, I say, and I say it again, you been had! You been took! You been hoodwinked!

Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!” — Denzel Washington as “Malcolm X.”

The above quote from Spike Lee’s movie about Malcolm X is my favorite.

But it has a different meaning for me now than it did when Malcolm X was supposed to have said it.

Back then, the fiery leader was trying to get Black folks to see that they have been lulled into complacency by the few crumbs that had fallen from the white man’s table.

And that freedom from racial discrimination and oppression was still a long way off.

But these days, those words come to mind when I reflect on the plight of young Black and Brown teens growing up in a world where too many of them become victims or perpetrators of violence.

These teens are not on a battlefield like young urban males were in 1968, risking their lives to protect the lives of the privileged class during the Vietnam War.

They are on street corners or in cars, firing powerful weapons at other young people who look like them as if “Black Lives Matter” is a fad and not a movement.

These cold-hearted shooters have been “hoodwinked” into thinking that their brother is their enemy and a firearm is a necessary accessory when they step outside.

They are the ones who are “bamboozled” by the images on social media of young Black and Brown men flashing stacks and cradling guns like coveted awards.

When no one is looking, the younger ones are led “astray” by the older ones, and both are swallowed whole by a system that runs on Black and Brown blood.

While many celebrated the triumph of justice over cruelty that the guilty verdicts represented in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, it was short-lived.

On Wednesday, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability released a video that shows a Chicago police officer shooting Anthony Alvarez in the Portage Park neighborhood.

The video shows 22-year-old Alvarez running from the police with a gun in his hand.

The video of the police shooting has sparked more anger over police brutality, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot again urging Chicagoans to express their outrage “peacefully.”

It also raises questions about police policy when it comes to foot pursuits.

But the outrage over Alvarez’s death at the hands of police will far outweigh the anger expressed over the senseless murder of 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Homan Square, as she sat in a car with her father.

As the movie “Malcolm X” noted: We’ve been ”had.” We’ve been ”took.”

When a white police officer unjustly kills a Black or Brown person, we demand that justice is served. But many of those same people making the most noise ignore the reality that Black and Brown people are getting killed daily by gun violence.

That two Black men — Demond Goudy, 21, and Marion Lewis, 18 — have been arrested and charged with murder in Jaslyn’s death is tragically typical.

But there is nothing more the police could have done to prevent this crime.

Only the village can reduce the risks for young Black teens growing up in gun-infested neighborhoods.

For instance, Swaysee Rankin, a 13-year-old Black gunshot victim, is being hailed as a hero for saving the life of 10-year-old La’Mya Sparks last fall.

Swaysee used his shirt to apply pressure to the gunshot wound, something that you would expect a 13-year-old living in a war zone to know how to do—not a teen from a Chicago neighborhood.

His quick thinking likely saved the girl’s life.

But on Monday night, just one block from where La’Mya was seriously wounded, Swaysee and a 14-year-old cousin were also shot when unknown assailants fired from a vehicle that fled the scene.

Swaysee’s mother, Ashley Jackson, told reporters that her son is “absolutely” not gang-affiliated on Tuesday.

“It was a drive-by shooting, just something random,” Swaysee’s mother told the Chicago Sun-Times.

If that’s the case, the words Lee chose to put in Malcolm X’s mouth have even more significant meaning today.