As I stand here, at the crossroads of love and hate for my city, the facts of the Laquan McDonald shooting shine as clear as day.
Captured by a police dashcam, the video shows white Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke empty his 9mm service weapon into Laquan’s 17-year-old black body, as the teen appears to be walking away.
He did not “lunge” at police. He had no gun. Only a 3-inch pocketknife. Period.
And a jury’s conviction of Van Dyke of second-degree murder still does not quench my angst. Does not fill me with a wellspring of hope. Only wets my face with tears for Laquan and my city.
Indeed, the case unhinged the doors of forgiveness in my heart previously sealed by my hope that someday we might still overcome. It unlocked within me a justifiable bitterness and indignation over the grave injustice and racial hate that lie at the root of centuries of America’s assault against the “black body.”
For me, the case came to represent the last glimmer of hope for anything remotely resembling justice for black folks in a city with a well-documented checkered past of police brutality, torture and state-sanctioned murder against black males. It represented a fight for the city’s soul.
I hate. And yet, I love. I stand at a crossroads.
Amid my desire to continue to hope against hate, my conscience is peppered with questions: Who was convicted of the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark? Isn’t this Jon Burge’s town, where scores of African-American men were beaten by rogue detectives, tortured and brutalized into false confessions? Who was convicted of the murder of Eugene Williams that sparked the Chicago Riot of 1919?
What of the untold stories of abuses by police that cause us to exist as second-class citizens, to live under constant fear of those sworn to “serve and protect?”
Why must we teach our black sons to walk gingerly around cops, to keep encounters short and sweet, to not smart off, to not reach for their wallet, to simply survive the encounter?
Why is it, across America, that the tales of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Botham Jean and countless others ring with haunting familiarity among African Americans? And why is it that our reality and cries of injustices suffered at the hands of police ring hollow in the other America?
Two worlds. Two cities. I stand at the crossroads.
Oh Chicago, blustery town that I love. City where gospel music and the blues form the fabric of your fertile Midwestern soil. City where a golden sun setting west of Lake Michigan, beyond the city’s steel mountain peaks, still makes this native son’s heart sing. Beloved city of grit. City that works and that even in your most grotesque ugliness awakens each morning, beeping like a big-city truck, moving in reverse amid the metal clang of construction. I love Chicago.
And now, I must confess to having grown to hate it.
I hate the Chicago that shot Laquan down. I hate the Chicago that initially suppressed the police dashcam video. I hate the Chicago that would seek to justify Laquan’s shooting.
That Chicago I hate.
I hate the Chicago that stoned Dr. King. The Chicago that murdered Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and Eugene Williams. That shot Laquan 16 times — his body jerking, the smolder of gunfire rising into a Chicago night sky.
I hate. And yet I love. I still stand here at a crossroads, uncertain that even the jury’s guilty verdict can bring me back to love.
And if I choose hate, it is because Chicago taught me well.
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