Those of you who’ve been reading here for a while know that I’m very far from being a racist – quite the opposite, in fact. Nevertheless, I know that much of the critical race theory-driven drivel being spouted by progressive and left-wing administrations – local, state and national – is a tissue of lies from start to finish, particularly when it comes to blaming crime in black communities on racism. The reality is much more complex, and much more fundamental.
As a pastor and prison chaplain, I’ve long seen the dysfunction in black families, particularly the lack of father figures to bring up young black men in the way they should walk. The influence of a father is fundamental. It can’t be substituted by maternal care, no matter how good. Its roots go deep into the human psyche, and are beyond rationalization. I saw the effects of dysfunctional family life (or the lack thereof) in black communities in the prison populations where I served. It’s not politically correct to talk about it, but it’s nevertheless real.
One pastor in Chicago appears to understand that very well – and he’s doing something about it.
Blaming black crime on slavery and Jim Crow completely ignores the elephant in the room.
. . .
Corey Brooks, pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago, has spent the past few years getting his hands dirty with an “alternative explanation” that is slowly transforming one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago. Rather than blaming cops, he’s laser-focused on tackling urban crime at its root: broken families.
In the new documentary “What Killed Michael Brown?” Shelby Steele and his son, Eli, spoke with Pastor Brooks, who set up his church in 2000 in the heart of Woodlawn, Illinois. It’s now a congregation of 2,500.
“I believe the church is the hope of the world,” said Brooks. “What greater place that needs that hope than a place that’s experiencing high levels of crime [and] broken families? We’ve seen a lot of young guys in the neighborhood who don’t value their lives. A lot of it is a result of not having someone to encourage them that ‘You can do better,’ … But if you don’t have those messages going forward, it’s hard for you to value life when everybody is shooting and killing.”
That was true for ex-Black Disciples gang leader Varney Voker who, as a child, watched his mother smoke weed and deal drugs. He wanted to be like her. But he did better. Voker grew up to build a crack-heroin business that brought in $60,000 a day.
Legendary in Chicago as one of “The Bentley Twins” (he and his twin brother drove Bentleys), Voker told Steele about how he returned from an 11-year prison sentence to find his old neighborhood under new leadership. While looking for old connections to rebuild his empire, Voker’s friend told him he had to go to the church.
“I’m like, who am I meeting?” he said, recounting the story. “Guy (said), ‘You meeting the pastor.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to talk to no pastor, bro, I just came home. He goes, ‘No, you have to talk to him because he runs the neighborhood now.’ ”
When they finally met, the pastor said to the ex-gang leader: “OK, um, I know who you are; I heard a lot about you – glad to see you home, but I’m the new sheriff in town.”
By making himself the “biggest elephant in the room,” Brooks established a new hierarchy in Woodlawn where young blacks saw him as a father figure. Over the years, Brooks has created an environment where young people can learn a trade, become self-sufficient, and be role models for others. It is this painstaking cycle of creating and reproducing role models that Brooks believes will transform the neighborhood. In fact, he wants Woodlawn to be the petri dish that will offer proof that urban areas nationwide can grow themselves out of dysfunction and close crippling disparities.
“It’s easy to say, ‘the white man, the white man’ when in reality we need to take a closer look at ourselves,” he told Steele. “We’re telling them educationally – you’ve got to get it together. Economically, you’ve got to get it together. Family and spiritually, you have to get it together. And you have to take responsibility.”
It is the Corey Brooks of the world – not the Cory Bookers – who will do for troubled urban cities what trillions of government dollars, angry protesters, and pampered TV pundits have failed to do. They ignore the elephant in the room, then make books and monuments to themselves about the problems they created and pretended to solve.
But men like Pastor Brooks stare the elephant in the eye, hammer stakes in the ground, and commit to the dirty, back-breaking labor of changing the destiny of generations of broken human beings.
If America is lucky, Brooks and people like him, just may be replicating an army of men and women in their own images.
There’s more at the link.
I’m heartened and encouraged to read about such efforts to address the root of the problem. It’s long overdue. However, it’s also not happening nearly widely enough. The apostles of racial extremism and conflict don’t want to see programs like this, because they’ll undermine their constituency of disaffected black youth – so they’ll do their best to block and discredit them at every turn. I applaud Pastor Brooks’ efforts, but I fear for his safety, and the safety of those serving alongside him. They’re likely to be targeted by those without principles or compassion.
In my earlier article this morning, I warned that America was close to a tipping point. People like Pastor Brooks might be the key to holding us back from tipping . . . if, and only if, their message can penetrate beyond their local communities into regional and national politics. So far, that’s not happening. If any of us can help them accomplish that, we need to get behind their efforts – because the consequences of failure will be devastating for us all.