OP-ED: When Will the Nation Wake Up?

Businesses in downtown Chicago and surrounding neighborhoods were once again looted during the overnight hours on Sunday. Residents woke to see their timelines flooded with pictures and live videos of the destruction. Many took to social media to express their frustration with watching this again, especially after witnessing it in May. Most expressed anger at those who took part in destroying our city yet again to steal a luxury handbag from Gucci, a television from Best Buy, or Walgreens’ snacks. The bridges were raised, CTA halted service going in and out of downtown, press conferences were held, and a curfew was implemented.

Chicago defender chicago lootingThe same response for the same behavior. It was business as usual here in Chicago once again. What will it take for something different to happen? What will it take for our city to realize that systematic racism against black and brown people cannot be stopped by raising the bridges downtown? Oppression cannot be stamped out by a curfew. Police brutality will not be adequately dealt with by suspended bus service. You can hold as many press conferences as you want, but the men that killed Breonna Taylor still walk free.

Yes, the looting Sunday all stemmed from misinformation about a shooting in Englewood. Yes, watching black businesses board up their storefronts again makes me sad and angry too. Yes, Louis Vuitton and Gucci have insurance to pay for the damage, and yes, those people Sunday were just thieves and opportunists. You will get no argument from me about any of that. But isn’t the definition of insanity “doing the same thing and expecting a different response”?

If we want things to change, we will have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable first. No real change has ever occurred without people making it so uncomfortable to live with the status quo that EVERYONE started to demand change. It can no longer be just black and brown people demanding that black lives matter. It must be EVERYONE. It must be the people awakened in the middle of the night by looters ransacking the stores below their luxury apartments along the Mag Mile. It has the be the business owners on Jeweler’s Row whose stores have been looted three times in as many months. It must be the Northside Millennials who fear the property value of their newly acquired condos will go down because of the repeated looting on Clybourn avenue.

You want meaningful and systematic change to come about?  We ALL must demand it. Unfortunately, there are still many Americans who think this is just a Black or Brown people problem. Racism and everything that comes along with it is an EVERYONE problem. So yes, it is uncomfortable now. We are forced to deal with and talk about things that many have been able to ignore because it did not directly affect them.  But those red lines are no longer keeping the unrest in our neighborhoods. It has spread and will continue to do so until we ban together as a nation. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable because this could just be the beginning.

Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Follow her on social @beboldshineon.




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