Reflection on Amos 6: 1-7 in light of gangs and the poor.

Woe to the complacent and overconfident who sleep in comfortable beds, eat and drink well, and idly entertain yourselves while ignoring the collapse of the poor and middle class. The complaint sounds like an attack on the average American Church going Christian. It is not their morality that concerns Amos, but their lack of compassion.
I am hearing lots of talk about the problems of gangs, gun violence, and the animosity between young Black males and the police. Some expert from a university said the problem has to do with trust between the police and kids from poor neighborhoods. It is one thing to state the obvious, but since this person is an academic he is oblivious of the depth of the problem. Gang members and the poor do not generally trust anyone. Many poor teenagers often cannot even trust their own mothers, let alone the police.
My experience with gang members is that they do not like to be candid let alone tell the whole truth. Young kids in poor neighborhoods learn early not to be truthful to their own mothers. Their mothers make up excuses about why they are not in school and the kids do the same to adults- grandparents, teachers, pastors, neighbors, and even their own mothers. By the time they have to deal with the police they learn that whatever they say has consequences which will come back on them. They steadfastly refuse to cooperate with the police let alone anyone else.
The police contribute to the problem by bullying, disrespecting, and with bogus arrests. In September of 2005 I walked into Dearborn Homes to get information about a funeral. Residents informed me that a dozen or so young men had been arrested for trespassing the night before. As I was standing in the lobby of the building writing down the funeral information, I was confronted by about 10 officers of the Chicago Gang Task Force led by Jerome Finnegan.
I was wearing my habit as officer Finnegan asked me why I was there. I told him pointing to the funeral arrangements on the wall and that I was with Catholic Charities hoping to assist the family. He asked for my identification. I gave him my Driver’s License and Catholic Charities ID (it would the last time I would use it since Catholic Charities was cutting my program at the end of the month). He then told me to leave the complex or he would arrest me for trespassing.
I looked at him to decide whether or not to challenge him by saying that I wanted to visit a family, but looking at the other officers I could see they would all back him up. Leaving I knew that the next Black male entering the lobby would be arrested for trespassing. I was furious.
A few years later Finnegan was convicted of plotting to kill a police officer and for corruption with the gang unit in a federal investigation not by local police officers. The problem with Officer Finnegan and the Chicago Police department is not that he was a rogue officer, but that he was protected, abetted, and promoted by the department.
Now police officers are not as bad as Finnegan, but poor young Black Males do not care. Their anger at the police and rival gang is used to justify their behaviors. They claim to get guns for self-defense, but the guns are generally used to settle disputes or to transact illegal activities.
Amos’s complaint is not against the immorality of the poor or the police, but against the rest of us who do so little about it. The problems of the African-American poor can not be solved by themselves. It can not be solved by the police, by the government, or even by the churches because our society needs a softening of our hearts toward the poor.
Next week I will discuss the actions that need to take place.

Photo by N.P, Lanthrum

Photo by N.P, Lanthrum

About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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