Dantrell Davis and the politics of poverty

The people responsible for violence in urban America are career politicians. Photo: Associated Press

“Dantrell has become a cause, a martyr, a tragic symbol. But he was just a little boy. He loved riding a tricycle real fast round and round in circles in the gym. He loved it when it was his turn to write the number on the calendar during calendar time. He loved playing ‘Memory,’ he loved trucks, he hated art. He loved chocolate milk and pizza.” 

In the anger, sorrow and righteous indignation, the teacher pleaded, “I ask you all to take a moment with me and remember the child.”  (Mary Schmich/Chicago Tribune) 

CHICAGO, October 13, 2012 — Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote an article about Dantrell Davis, a seven-year-old boy who was shot in the head and killed by a gang sniper while walking to school with his mother.

Jenner Elementary School was just one hundred feet from the apartment building where they the lived in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green housing project. 

The murder of Dantrell Davis shocked the nation. 

Dantrell Davis was the third and youngest Jenner Elementary student shot and killed that year. Jenner Elementary holds shooting drills as well as fire drills. Teachers and students are drilled to empty the classrooms and file into the hallways at the sound of gunfire or if the PA system announced gunfire.

They are to remain there until an all clear was sounded. 

The sniper shot from a window in one of the high rises. He was arrested the same day. The sniper stated in his confession to police that he was aiming at a member of the Vice Lords street gang. 

“We were all in shock,” says Reverend Walter Johnson, who at the time was pastor of Wayman AME Church, just up the street from the shooting. “It was the senselessness—the devastation a community felt when a seven-year-old who had nothing to do with it could get slain because someone was shooting at another gangbanger.” (Chicago Reader) 

Dantrell Davis was murdered twenty years ago today. According to news reports he was buried wearing a tuxedo in a blue casket. His memory lives on through honorary street signs on a section of Cleveland Avenue.

Almost two years after his murder, Dantrell’s killer, an Army veteran, received a 100-year sentence for the murder. 

In twenty-five days people will go to the polls to elect a president, vice president, senators, congressman, and a host of state, county, and local politicians. Many, if not most of these people are career politicians. 

Over the span of five decades, career politicians have done next to nothing to reduce or end the cycle of multi-generational abject urban poverty, the kind of poverty that breeds street gangs, narcotic trafficking, other crime, and the murders of innocent children like Dantrell Davis.

Walk through any of Chicago’s infamous violent neighborhoods - Englewood, Lawndale, Auburn-Gresham, the Hundreds - and you will see the same thing people have been witnessing for almost fifty years. There has been little if any economic development. There are acres and miles of vacant commercial, industrial, and manufacturing land and countless vacant buildings. 

The vacant land and buildings were caused by Urban Renewal. All that did was tear things down, board things up, and see to it they are kept clean. Nothing replaced them. There are even more today. 

To career politicians, economic development in urban America is an increase in welfare, food stamps, and other so-called safety-net benefits. People won’t starve; their utilities and rent will be paid, they can even get free cell phones, now called “Obama phones.” Big deal. 

Worse, many of these career politicians are black. They got elected on the fulfillment of “the Drea” and glib tongued promises. People fought, were beaten, and died for the right to vote. They also suffered so they could see people like them get elected to public office.

Those people, the people of the Dream, turned their backs on those who put them in office. They did nothing but keep people poor, uneducated, and angry. 

The Dream was fulfilled when America elected its first black president, Barack Obama. Like all the rest of the black and bleeding-heart white liberal politicians at all levels of government, he has done nothing except protect the safety nets, protect the sanctity and nobility of multi-generational poverty, protect the politics of poverty, protect the ignorance that allows low-information voters to keep electing the same people over and over and over again. 

A gang sniper protecting his drug turf did not murder Dantrell Davis. All the people, especially children, who were wounded or killed this year during Chicago’s Summer of Violence, were not victims of gangs, drug dealers, and other criminals. 

They were all victims of the insidious politics of poverty. The perpetrators were their own elected officials who ignore them except at election time. They are also victims of the poverty pimp storefront preachers, who benefit from poverty, some gaining national and international fame, celebrity and wealth.

Real people are victims of the Dream instead of beneficiaries. 

Chicago is not alone in this. New York, Detroit (euphemistically called “Destroyed”), Los Angeles, and other large urban areas face the same decades old problem. The useless career politicians are white, black, and Hispanic, depending on the demographics. 

You can no longer blame racism when so many people of color are elected. It appears the only racists are politicians who hate their own people so much they keep them in perpetual suffering. 

You do not have to watch the beauty contest, the so-called political debates. You do not have to read the useless media endorsements. You can ignore the pundits and junk email from all those politicos who tout hope, change, a better life, and government checks in every mailbox. 

If you want to see where America is heading drive through poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The only thing that separates some of these from fourth-world nations is indoor plumbing. 

This is not a racial problem. It is not a Democrat or Republican problem. Both parties are useless. This is a bum problem. If you want to effect change, especially economic change, then there is only one solution.

Throw the bums out. Never vote for an incumbent until things start changing. Maybe the career politicians will finally get the message. 

No one, not one single person, deserves reelection. They should earn it. Ask yourself, have they earned their next term? Did they do anything other than blame someone else for problems? 

Twenty years ago seven-year-old Dantrell Davis was murdered. Politicians who only served themselves murdered him. They are still murdering people today. They do it through their total concern about themselves and lack of concern about those who elected them.

The Dream has turned into a long urban nightmare. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, Chicago Headline Club, and the Society for Professional Journalists. 

pvbella@gmail.com 

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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