Inner City Violence

Gayle Catinella
Download: Audio icon 0051.mp3

These are all critical questions, and I am grateful for those who are trying to find ways to answer them. However, if we are going to be successful in creating a more peaceful city, we have to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves some hard questions.

Primarily, how are we modeling respect for life, every life, in our community? People move to violence when they are desperate. Violence is rarely the first choice or the preferred option. People choose violence because they have tried other ways because they are tired of the way things are because they have nothing to lose.


Imagine that for a moment, a life that is so hard, so desperate, that you have nothing to lose. I don’t have that life. I hope you don’t either. And because of that, it is hard to walk in those shoes. But certainly, we have heard the pieces that add up to this. We know the poverty level in this city is outrageously high. Some of our neighbors live without basic services. The pandemic has only made things worse. Racism makes things worse. How long do you have to live in extreme poverty to become desperate?


We know that there are very few options for buying food in our city. You have to drive to the suburbs for good food in most cases, and if you don’t have a car if you can’t drive because of health conditions if the one car in your family is claimed by the person who is working, what do you do? A bus is a good option if you don’t have small children or a disability if you have time to wait. How long do you have to live without access to healthy food to become desperate?


There are other problems in our community that are also easy to overlook or to say we are working on. Promises are made, initiatives are started, small successes are celebrated. Good work is being done. But if you are poor in this city, and so many people are, it is a tough life. And if that life is all you have known, if you have been raised in desperation, then despair and nothing to lose are not far behind.


 I want the young people in our community to know they are cared about not because we are afraid of them, but because we value them. And we show we value them by making sure they are well cared for. We show they matter by listening and including them in solutions that work. Let’s be careful as we try to solve the problem of violence that we are listening, and then acting on what will make a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. We must address the reasons for desperation and offer real hope.