After another 50 people were shot — nine fatally — last weekend in the city, President Donald Trump took aim at Chicago for its gun violence as he pushed his “law and order” agenda during Tuesday’s presidential debate.
Without directly naming Trump, Chicago artist Vic Mensa on Wednesday said people often discuss the city’s gun violence without recognizing how systemic racism plays a role in the violence.
During “The Heal America Tour” stop in Chicago on Wednesday, Mensa, whose given name is Victor Mensah, said people use his hometown as a “scapegoat example of extreme criminals.” But there’s a lot more to it, he said.
“Chicago is just a microcosm of every ‘hood [in the] USA,” Mensa said. “Chicago is a representation of the poisoned mindsets that we’ve been brought up in.
“As far as impacting it, I think that we just gotta look at the reasons why it exists. You know, the reasons why it exists is because everybody is starving, everybody’s broke, [there’s a] lack of resource, lack of access to education and healthcare and housing,” he said.
“And it’s like you grow up with bullet holes in the stop signs, eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetohs in a food desert, and you expect a m—————- to end up [being] Oprah, you know what I mean?”
Mensa believes bringing “mass employment” to the South and West sides could help curb gun violence.
“When you look at communities that have similar rates of unemployment across racial demographics, that violence and that homicide [rate], all that starts to even out,” he said. “… It brings you to the point that people are starving, they don’t have options, they don’t have outlets, they don’t have ways to feed their families so they engage in dangerous lifestyles.”
Though race was a key issue in the first presidential debate on Tuesday, the speakers at Wednesday’s event hosted by Urban Specialist founder and chief operating executive Bishop Omar Jahwar stayed away from talking about the chaos that unfolded on television Tuesday night.
Instead, they focused on how systemic racism plays a factor in today’s society. They also discussed potential solutions for creating relationships between police officers and the communities they serve.
One suggestion was for community members to host town halls with police officers assigned to their area. Ryan Tillman, a Southern California police officer and founder of Breaking Barriers United, also said officers should live in the neighborhoods they serve so they have a better understanding of the people they’re supposed to protect.