Father Michael Pfleger Says We Should Protect Black and Brown Kids From Guns Also
In this interview, Dr. Boyce Watkins speaks with Father Michael Pfleger of the St. Sabina Church on the Southside of Chicago. Father Pfleger has been a fierce advocate for equality and has long battled against discrimination. Father Pfleger says that the recent killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut should be a wake up call about the dangers of making guns readily available to the public. He also notes the writing on the wall – that this violence meant very little to the nation when black children were being shot. A transcript of the interview is below:
Hi, I’m Dr. Boyce Watkins from YourBlackWorld.com and anybody who follows anything that I do knows that there is one guy I respect probably as much as anybody on this planet and that is Father Michael Pfleger. He’s the head of Saint Sabina in the south side of Chicago. He has been a relentless advocate for justice and equality throughout America not just for people of color, but for all people and he is a person who’s willing to do what’s necessary in order to do what’s right. I’ve got father Pfleger on the line today and I want to ask father Pfleger, how are you doing today?
Pfleger: Great sir, and believe me the respect is mutual. I have tremendous respect for your voice and your courage and your willingness to continue to address issues and ask the hard questions. So I thank you for what you do.
Boyce: Thank you very much, thank you. Right now we’re in the middle of a really interesting time in America. We just had a horrible tragedy take place in Connecticut. A lot of people are tentative about discussing one of the issues that you’ve been very consistent about which is dealing with gun violence and also gun control. Right after the incident took place, one of the things I really appreciated was on social media you immediately said something that I think a lot of people needed to hear in terms of what we need to do to deal with these kinds of situation and prevent them before they happen. Can you sir reiterate what your points were on that Facebook post?
Pfleger: Well, there are two things I think are absolutely important. First we have to address the culture of violence that has become a norm in this country that we are denying and that we are not facing head on. And that is we have a culture right now in America where the first line of violence. We’ve done this since 9/11, we’ve shown as a government that’s what we do when we’re mad at people we attack them. We send planes, we drop missiles, send bombs. I think we see it in the social media, we see it in TV shows, we see it in entertainment, we see it in video games, we see it in music and YouTube. So I see all this violence has become the culture of America. We saw it in the health care when 50 and 60 year old people were pushing each other in hearings and meetings. So that’s one thing but the second thing is, this gun issue, this love affair of America with guns and this proliferation of guns, this easy access to guns. We are the most armed country in the world and we are seeing the effect of that. Until we deal head on with the gun issues and tell people all the time….. I understand how the second amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court, fine. But we have to stop this easy access and this proliferation of guns, these loopholes, where nobody is held accountable with a gun. The fact is all these guns in Connecticut were bought legally. So guns are being bought legally, sold on the streets, out of the trunks of cars. Given to anybody to use and there’s no accountability. Assault weapons first of all and high magazines should be banned in this country. They are military weapons. How dare we ban them in Iraq but we won’t ban them in our own country. These mass shootings are because we’ve allowed it in our country and that needs to be stopped immediately.
Secondly we need to deal with this love affair with guns. People cannot feel that anybody can get a gun whenever they want in this country and have no accountability. Somebody can go to a gun shop right now, buy 200 guns a week legally and sell them on the street and they’re not held responsible. That’s why we’ve been telling people to title a gun just like a car so there is a responsibility that comes with it just like a car. If you don’t transfer a title then you’re responsible for what happens to that gun. Close the loophole. We have 120,000 people in Illinois named with mental illness, whose names are not even on the records. They can go buy a gun today and there’s no accountability to them. You can sell it on the street or you can lose it and nobody holds you accountable to it. So until we deal with this gun issue…. And they say “it’s not the gun it’s the person with the gun.” So here’s just an example. If we have a staircase, on top of the staircase is a skateboard and you have to teach your child to stay away from the skateboard by the staircase you could end up killing yourself or hurting yourself badly. I have to teach my child that. But as adults we also have responsibility to remove the skateboard from the staircase. And that’s what we have to do now. We move the guns from this easy access in America. Where anybody can get it, anybody can use it and they’re not held accountable. So until we deal with the gun issue I think personally that a big part of the problem is that all our public leaders around this country getting out and talking about their sympathy and what happened in Connecticut. My response is that if you do not do something to prevent the next Connecticut or the next Virginia, the next mall shooting or AuroraTheater shooting or the Gabby Gifford or the streets of Chicago. If you don’t have the courage to do something to prevent it, then I’m just saying that your sympathy is shallow, it’s phony and it’s cheap. It’s easy to be sorry, it’s courage to say “we are going to in the name of these children stop this and contain what happens in this country.”
Boyce: Alright I know that you’re about to head off to go and actually give out some meals to some families today, which is a kind of typical day for you because you’re usually doing something for the community every day. One of the things I think people should know is that in the community that you serve, you’ve seen this kind of violence on a regular basis for a very long time. And the country hasn’t necessarily responded in a way that they should. What do you think it is that exists in our nation that allows us to ignore so much of the violence that might take place in urban communities and then suddenly become aware when it happens to someone else. It’s almost as if when this happened in Connecticut it’s as if it’s the first time a child had ever been shot before. We know that there are babies dying all over the neighborhood’s across America. We know that babies are dying in Iraq and Palestine and other places. Where do you think that gap in the sensitivity comes from?
Pfleger: Well I think the other issue that we continue to avoid in America is we are afraid to have an honest conversation about race. I look at… We have nearly 500 people murdered in Chicago this year and hundreds of them children and teenagers and it has been basically dismissed across America. The number one issue of violence and the victims of violence in this country have been black or brown. And so America says “well it’s those communities, it’s those people of this, that’s how it is in those neighborhoods.” And they have dismissed it and they have turned their heads and walked away from it. Twenty innocent children in Connecticut get killed and all of a sudden it’s an American focus and it should be. All I say is that it also should be when it’s in Chicago or Oakland or Newark or Philly or anyplace else in this country. Violence is the undeclared war, it’s an epidemic in America and because the victims are primarily black and brown we’ve ignored it. I’ve said this for years and will continue to say it. It’s going to happen just like it did with drugs when it was only in the black community nobody cared. When it grew into the homes and backyard of the children of Senators and Congressmen and Elect Officials, we had a war on drugs. Understand until we see this as a human problem, not a black or brown problem, and right now we’ve seen it’s a human problem. I’m not quite sure and I say this with great hurt and pain but I’m not sure that if 20 children were murdered in the South side of Chicago or South Philly or South Central we would have the same national response. That’s something that we have to deal with in this country. But the reality is, this tragedy has happened. Let’s use this moment to say you care about those children. Then let’s care about children everywhere. Let’s care about violence everywhere and let’s decide that this human family has a sickness, a cancer that’s destroying it across this country. We cannot just deal with the symptom. Connecticut is a symptom, Arizona is a symptom and Chicago is a symptom. Let’s deal with the root causes of guns and violence and a culture that we’ve developed in America and race that sits in the middle of it. Let’s deal with it and let’s say not just the next child in Connecticut but say the next child in America.
Boyce: Alright, well said. I want to say thank you very much for your time Father Pfleger. I really appreciate it.
Pfleger: Thank you doctor. I appreciate all you’re doing and thanks for your great work and always thanks for your support.
Boyce: Well, thank you, thank you. It means a lot brother. You know when you and I had a chance to talk a few weeks ago. I told my friend it’s sort of like talking to an older brother. You know an older brother who says “Look this is what I’ve done over the last 30 years…[Laughter] I need you to take this baton and keep running alongside me.” So your example is one that inspires a lot of us and that spirit is something that I believe will live forever. So God bless you.
Pfleger: Well thank you sir and bless you man. Appreciate it and have a blessed Xmas.
Boyce: Thank you, thank you. Thank you all for checking us out at YourBlackWorld.com and remember that caring about the children in Connecticut also means that we need to care about the children everywhere. So let’s use this situation to make sure that those babies didn’t die in vain. We can save those other children out there who are going to meet an unfortunate fate if we fail to act today. There’s a child out there somewhere now whose life is in jeopardy because something is going to happen to that child if we don’t stop the forces of evil in our world that are designed to take a child’s future away from him or her. So we’ve got to act and we can’t just sit back and be polite about it. We’ve got to go out and do what needs to be done. Till we meet again. Please stay strong, be blessed and be educated. We are gone…..Peace.
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