While the world continued to burn this week in the wake of the George Floyd killing by a police officer in Minneapolis, some residents on the south side of Chicago were asking a simple question: What about August Gills?
Gills, an 18-year-old resident of the Cottage Grove Heights area of Chicago, Ill., who had just finished high school and recently become a young father, was shot and killed on a street corner at 2:40 p.m. the afternoon of June 6.
It got very little coverage outside of a few friends leaving condolences on his Facebook page and the only cops involved in this incident were the ones who responded to the scene where another young, black life had been taken too soon in a violent way in America.
The news of his death didn’t make the headlines of the local or national papers or find its way to the news desks of influential cable media mouthpieces. There was no video of the incident to play on an endless loop, no social media movements to commemorate his life, and there were no empty slogans or buzzwords invented overnight and pushed across the air waves ad nauseum over the days that followed his murder.
Instead, Gills was just another faceless name mentioned in countless news stories this week detailing what is being called the most violent day in Chicago in six decades according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
On Sunday, May 31, 18 people were murdered there in a 24-hour period. All told, over that weekend, according to data compiled by the Chicago Sun Times, from 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, through 11 p.m. Sunday, May 31, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire.
According to news reports, Gills and his girlfriend were walking down a street when an orange Dodge Charger pulled up and someone in the vehicle started firing shots at them.
The young man was hit in the head and shoulder and died later that day at the hospital.
August Gills won’t get three funerals - in the age of COVID 19, his family will be lucky if they are allowed to hold one.
There probably won’t be any murals painted for him. Nobody is going to march on the streets of Chicago and demand justice.
And our politicians and elected officials from both parties and all their little activist groups out on the streets will do little or nothing to fix it outside of throwing slogans and lip service (and lately Molotov cocktails) at it.
It’s been the same story year in and year out for decades in America.
On Monday, while the Gills family was mourning the loss of August, the leaders of the Democratic party were playing dress-up for a photo op in Washington D.C., cable news networks were preparing to cover a third funeral service for Floyd (this time in Houston), and Republican leaders were burying their heads even further in the sand while the President of the United States was tweeting about conspiracy theories and fighting with former employees on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the vicious circle of murder and loss of life in our largest cities will continue to turn unabated and underreported.
According to the Sun Times, most homicide victims in Chicago are young, black men, and the suspects are, too. FBI statistics from across the United States paint the same picture.
Early media reports suggest that the carnage seen over that two-day period in some of Chicago’s deadliest neighborhoods carried a similar theme as years of frustration combined with the current atmosphere across the country heightened the tensions.
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a community leader from Chicago, told the Sun-Times that systemic problems that have plagued minority communities for decades — like joblessness, food insecurity and a lack of housing — were already heightened by the COVID-19 outbreak, making “a bad situation worse.”
“It’s like a time bomb out here,” Pfleger said. “People are on the edge, people are angry, people are poor, and they don’t even know when it’s going to change.”
Floyd’s death brought further to the fore the “hopelessness and anger” felt by those living in blighted communities, added Pfleger.
It’s a hopelessness and anger that has been felt in the inner cities of America for decades and stories like Gills’ take place daily across the country and basically go unacknowledged until a more sensational crime hits the news cycle – like a mass shooting at a school.
Then we all point to Chicago or Los Angeles or St. Louis, where hundreds of young black men, women and children die violent deaths each year and ask the same questions over and over again.
But no one answers.
Not even Barrack Obama, this country’s first black president and a man who cut his political teeth in Illinois, offered much of anything in the way of dealing with the sad reality of just how violent and dangerous the streets of our inner cities are or the underlying causes that contribute to the problems found there.
Because going into the south side of Chicago and trying to make a difference is messy work. It’s not glamorous and it doesn’t make headlines.
It doesn’t poll well.
Riots, protests, melees, burning buildings, dirty cops – those things move the needle.
The truth is no amount social media movements or book banning’s, or television show cancellations are going to change anything where we need the most change.
You’ll never see Seth Rogen or any of his Hollywood buddies in South Central Los Angeles pleading for peace.
And taking away Elmer Fudd’s gun is about as useful as two left feet.
Woke white people can stand on the highway and scream at random people until their faces turn blue but until we get our hands dirty, stop talking and start acting, the cycle of senseless murder will continue.