Dear African American looters,
You have spent several days breaking into stores, stealing sneakers, Louis Vuitton handbags and big screen TVs. But when it is all over, you will have nothing.
Sure, there is a certain amount of excitement in snatching things that you could never afford to purchase for yourselves. But the adrenaline rush of getting back at "the man" will be fleeting.
You have never met "the man" -- that metaphorical figure who heads the establishment. Yet you know he is always out there, waiting for a chance to bring you down.
"The man" doesn't know you either, though he groomed you to become the young men and women you are today. Even before you were born, he decided that you were worthless and would never amount to anything. So he turned his back on you and let you shrivel from high unemployment, poverty and poor education.
Still, you foolishly believed that "the man" would understand your hunger for material things that people in affluent areas take for granted. You thought that with the overflowing empathy for George Floyd's death, you would easily blend in with the peaceful protesters who are demonstrating against police brutality.
You are incredibly naive. "The man" is coming for you with all his force. And he will catch you.
"The man" has a partner now. Donald Trump heard about you breaking into stores along the Magnificent Mile in Chicago and was intrigued. If you had limited the looting to your own neighborhoods on the city's South and West sides, neither "the man" nor Trump would have cared. But you ventured north into theirs.
That made you the perfect poster child to promote the tough law-and-order image Trump needs for reelection. You have the frightening characteristics of a Willie Horton -- the black convicted felon whom George H.W. Bush used to scare voters into electing him president in 1988.
After his release from a Massachusetts prison through a furlough program, Horton raped a white woman and stabbed her boyfriend. Bush seized the opportunity to run a law-and-order ad campaign using racial stereotypes to generate fear.
Images of young black men like you terrorizing Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood are just what Trump needed. He told America on Tuesday that he would deploy the military, if necessary, to restore law and order across the country. It doesn't matter that he can't legally do it. He just needed to say it.
"The man" has no intention of allowing you to continue creating havoc. He is not interested in the story of your complicated life or that young white people are looting too. He will shoot you down if he has to.
Even if you survive, your future will be dire. You will spend the rest of your life paying for the brief moment of pleasure you got holding five pairs of Nikes in your arms as you fled to a waiting car.
Everyone in the neighborhood where you live will pay a price.
If you thought you could teach "the man" a lesson by destroying his expensive property, you were sadly mistaken. He will be triumphant -- as he always is.
The colorful flowers along Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago will return next spring in full bloom. Once the glass is swept from the sidewalks downtown, businesses will rebuild and reopen. Soon there will be no hint of your week of vandalism that threatened to turn "the man's" beautiful city into an empty shell.
But regardless of what politicians say, your communities will suffer much longer because of your callous behavior.
Years from now, when you are older, your children and grandchildren will look around their crumbling neighborhoods on the South and West sides and see swaths of vacant buildings. There will be no grass, flowers or luscious walking paths, only despair.
And there will be no hope -- just as there was none for you growing up.
You have stolen some of the few places your elders could go to have a prescription filled. People have to drive for miles right now to buy a quart of milk or a carton of eggs. Your despicable acts have shamed them and made you outcasts in your community.
In the past, when outsiders called you hoodlums and thugs, the elders argued that you were misunderstood youths, disadvantaged for no reason of your own. Now, it is easier for them to just lower their heads and nod in agreement.
Generations of children will grow up wondering what awful thing you must have done to make "the man" so angry. They won't understand how "the man" could be so vengeful as to deprive their neighborhood of economic development as if it weren't part of the city.
As a child, you wondered the same thing as you played on substandard playgrounds on the West Side, built in the shadows of boarded-up buildings left over from riots more than a half-century ago.
One day, you will look these children in the eye and say that it is not your fault. But that will not be entirely true. You have set your people back further than they were before the civil unrest.
Many of the businesses you have destroyed will not return. Economic revitalization will come much slower now, if at all, as other neighborhoods move swiftly to recovery.
Someday while sitting in a cramped room, in front of a stolen TV that covers the span of a wall, you might wonder if any of this was worth it. You will look at those worn-out Nikes that have been tossed in a corner and realize the truth.
You were merely a pawn in a high-stakes political game that you had no idea was being played. But more importantly, you were a selfish opportunist.
The price you paid for that TV was way too high. In the end you will have nothing, but payments to "the man" will still be due.
A Chicagoan who grieves for you as well as her city.
About The Writer
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
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