They despise the one who admonishes by the gate, and the one who speaks purely they detest. – Amos 5:10
Two thousand sixteen has become a year of murder on our cities’ streets and assassination of police officers across the country. Mobs of Black Lives Matter demonstrators chant, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” under the guise of free speech rather than incitement to commit murder. Being a police officer in these “politically correct” times of the second-guessers has become more difficult and more deadly. In Baton Rouge, three policemen were gunned down and three others injured in gunfire. In Dallas, five policemen were slaughtered in another rampage. The perpetrators of this deadly violence were black males.
In a culture of single-mother families short on discipline and lacking community-wide respect for law and order, rationalized chaos has overtaken many inner-city communities, as police risk their lives trying to stop the self-inflicted carnage. It’s truly unfortunate when police feel the need to use deadly force believing their lives to be in danger. It’s also true that in Chicago, where I live, deadly violence has increased significantly in the last eight years. Appreciating the heightened anxiety inherent in policing America’s inner-city areas shouldn’t require special “sensitivity training”—just common sense.
In Chicago, by the end of September, over 570 people were murdered after more than 3,200 shootings, according to HeyJackass.com. A shooting in Chicago occurs every two hours, a murder every 11 hours and 35 minutes, with close to 90 percent being black-on-black murders. The previous record for Chicago murders was 970 in 1974, when Chicago’s population was 3.5 million. Today it’s 2.7 million. Extrapolating from the 1974 statistic, the record for 2016 would be 736. Chicago is averaging slightly over 62 murders per month, projecting a record-breaking annual rate of 744. Of the 570 killings, only six have involved Chicago police – about one percent. If an individual reaches into his pocket after being asked by a policeman to “keep your hands where I can see them,” chances are, things will not end well – whether you’re black or white.
So I was dismayed to read an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune on April 22, 2016. A north side Conservative rabbi from Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood had written, “The city should acknowledge the history of racism that has existed within the Chicago Police Department. … Real healing begins with an apology to those who were hurt. … If we are going to see real change, let’s begin by creating a truly transparent means of addressing issues that arise between police and citizens.”
For a moment the sensitive rabbi might step back from his predisposition and look at the situation more realistically. Perhaps this rabbinic peacemaker, judge and jury can put aside his prophetic powers that enable him to read the hearts and minds of Chicago police, both black and white. Declaring police racists won’t solve any of the real problems. If the police are involved in just over one percent of the fatalities, as statistics indicate, why is the rabbi so conveniently overlooking all the black-on-black carnage? Don’t those black lives matter? Let’s be honest. The police are doing an exceptional job under extremely difficult circumstances. Mistakes may have been made in split-second decisions of life and death. But in an alltoo-convenient “head fake” to “political correctness,” can the few killings committed by the police, both white and black, really be attributed to racism? Recently in Milwaukee, a black policeman killed an armed black suspect. Is that racism, Rabbi?
Apparently relying on a sixth sense in the absence of any factual basis, the rabbi accuses the Police Department of inherent racism and the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) of doing an inadequate job. His “evidence” is that the IPRA “has investigated nearly 400 police-involved shootings since 2008, but has found wrongdoing by police in only two cases.” This writes the rabbi, is a “sad fact” that “speaks for itself.” The truly “sad fact that speaks for itself” is the rabbi’s apparent bias against the police and the IPRA.
The current review board is comprised of Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley, an African-American, graduated magna cum laude from Princeton with an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering; received her law degree at the University of Chicago; holds an MBA from the Wharton School; and served for eight years as an assistant state’s attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, prosecuting cases involving national security, violent crimes, firearms and narcotics trafficking. Not bad credentials. Her Chief of Staff, Annette Moore, also an African-American, graduated magna cum laude from Emory University, also received her law degree from the University of Chicago, and worked in the Global Finance group of Sidley Austin LLP, specializing in syndications, structured loans and the securitization of a wide variety of assets. She sits on numerous boards of Illinois not-for-profit organizations dedicated to providing access to services required by homeless and at-risk populations in the city of Chicago. Another very impressive resume. The Chief Investigators, Jay Westensee and Mark Grba, also come to the IPRA with impressive resumes, as does Helen O’Shaughnessy, its General Counsel. Each of these experienced professionals certainly seems eminently qualified, and most likely not active in the Ku Klux Klan. So what would predispose the rabbi to such skepticism—a little too much transparency in his personal agenda?
If the rabbi seeks transparency, he must confront the reality that several areas of Chicago are ganginfested “war zones” rather than home sweet homes. And since the previous murder record was established, tens of thousands of police officers have been employed during that time. Were they all racists? Rather than scapegoating the police with the all-too-convenient, “politically correct” tagline “racist,” perhaps the real problem – which the rabbi fails to address – lies within the black community itself, and not with the police at all.
To quote the rabbi (who seems to be auditioning for the part of a rabbinic Reverend Michael Pfleger), “If we are going to see real change [which he never gets around to defining], let’s begin with creating a truly transparent means of addressing issues that arise between police and citizens.” How about addressing the more obvious issues of black males killing other black people? And if it’s transparency he wants, I agree that it will “take leadership” to stem the violence. Would that be the race-baiting leadership of Al “Tawana Brawley” Sharpton? Or Rev. Jeremiah “G-d damn America” Wright? Or Rev. Louis “I hate white America” Farrakhan? Is that really the way to rise above the violence in these neighborhoods? Surely the rabbi must realize that real change comes from two-parent families instilling respect for the law, coupled with better education. Here he might turn to our Torah, which makes two suggestions: “You shall teach your children diligently,” and “ask your father and he will tell you; ask your grandfather and he will explain it.” Could there be a reason why the Torah explicitly invokes fathers and grandfathers? Too often, neither is around for young black males to learn from. If the rabbi truly cares, which I believe he does, perhaps he should ponder this memorable exchange from the movie, A Few Good Men: “I want the truth!” demands Tom Cruise. And Jack Nicholson shouts back, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Yes, people will be people; but surely the rabbi has heard of the irrationality of anti-Semitism. Same goes for racism. Can’t stop people from being people. But even under the spotlight, although perception is the acquired reality, the statistics cast doubt that there is an embedded problem in the police force. “Transparency” means facing the reality that if black lives matter, then statistics confirms that the overwhelming majority of murders committed in the black community have nothing to do with the police! Blacks killing blacks is not racism. If you want to see real change, stop blaming the police and start acknowledging the real problems in the black community—unless, from the rabbi’s words, you want to perpetuate the bigotry of low expectations.
The reality is that much has changed for the black community in America over the last 50 years. But the inconvenient truth that the” presstitutes” and professional racist hucksters don’t acknowledge is that many blacks have acculturated into the everyday life of America, including Chicago. Is their success invisible to the race-baiters? John W. Fountain and Mary Mitchell are gifted writers at the Chicago SunTimes. Jason Riley is a gifted writer at the Wall Street Journal. The manager I deal with at McGrath Lexus, Dean Allen, is black. The dermatologist I see at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Julius Few, is black. One of my former zoning attorneys, Langdon Neal, is black. A close friend and brilliant criminal attorney, Justice George Leighton, is black. There are many competent, educated, and dare I say integrated black members of society with whom we all interact every day. Dr. Ben Carson is a remarkable story from the ghettos of Detroit; and even though he’s a conservative and the former director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s still black. Amar’e Stoudemire, an all-star basketball player now playing in Israel, is black and is on his way to converting to Judaism. He and his family made aliyah. (I had to just throw that in.) It’s only race hustlers and anti-police activists who keep drawing distinctions in order to keep racism alive. If a white guy with a gun is shot by a black policeman, is that racism?
There are tens of millions of everyday, hard-working blacks who have walked through the doors of opportunity in today’s America. With no excuses, they made their way into American society by taking their education seriously and working hard—blacks who embrace the belief that all people are created equal, while realizing that the first step up out of poverty is to get an education. “Can’t get a good job if you can’t read or write,” said Chris Rock, another black success story. And the many successful black men and women I’ve talked with all agree on the importance and foundational value of children growing up in a family with both a mother and a father showing love and commitment. Many have grasped the golden ring of American opportunity and created lives that their grandparents could only have dreamed of. It should be a familiar story for any Jew who steps out of his “regressive” echo chamber of all-tooconvenient excuses cloaked in their superficial “political correctness.”
Let’s be honest. The job of a policeman – to serve and protect – is not an easy one in our polarized society, yet these brave, dedicated people put on their blue uniforms every day, well aware of the dangers they may face. I don’t know where a person finds the courage and fortitude to become a policeman who in today’s upside-down world takes the abuse and ridicule that has become their daily plight, but they should be thanked for every day that they’re out there.
If the rabbi truly cares, he must change his conversation from the convenience of victimhood to the sanctity of family as the foundation of future success. And if blacks question the necessity to change the conversation, then the question is, “Do black lives really matter?” I’m sure the hundreds of multimillionaire black athletes and multi-millionaire black entertainers and multi-millionaire black entrepreneurs will be more than happy to chip in to help their communities achieve a better future. Isn’t that the Jewish way!
As for the rabbi, securely ensconced in his office, surrounded by five or six armed police officers who conscientiously guard his gated synagogue compound, protecting its clergy, its worshippers and its day school, he might want to rethink his words as to who should be apologizing to whom. During these holy days of introspection, I would suggest a most sincere expression of gratitude is in order to those who serve and protect him each day with a smile and a friendly hello. And perhaps an apology to those police who were hurt by his words might just be his start. Hug a thug – and Chicago will sadly continue to make national headlines with a lot more funerals.
L’Shana Tova, 5 Tishrei, 5777 Jack “Yehoshua” Berger
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