Dialogue key to preventing violence

By The Columbia Chronicle

In response to planned public housing closures, an increase in homicides and a consistently high unemployment rate, the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago organized an Oct. 1 discussion at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 S. Halsted St.

The panel, which included The Rev. Jessie Jackson, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and UIC criminal justice and gender and women’s studies professor Beth Richie, offered suggestions on how to prevent violence, expose domestic inequalities and promote international justice and social peace.

UIC’s Social Justice Initiative is a coalition of activists and scholars that seeks to provide a platform for civic engagement and create positive change throughout Chicago and the world.

The panel shed light on how violence affects today’s globalized society. The discussion, titled “Building Peace in our Communities and the World: Key Ingredient Justice,” explained how violence can manifest more than just  physically, but also socially and economically.

“We have an obligation to end violence and discrimination and to globalize our community to the point where there is an even playing field for all people,” Jackson said. “You can be indifferent to violence, you can imitate violence, adjust violence, or you can resist violence. That is what activism is: resisting apparent oppression. And this oppression in Chicago is violence.”

According to Jackson, Chicago Public Schools experience massive discrimination. He cited 160 city schools that don’t have libraries, which he said is cause for drastic reform to combat the cycle of social violence.

Jackson said college prep and charter schools offer more arts courses than public schools, which perpetuates the cycle of inequality.

He said community members should pay attention and recognize economic inequality in order to understand the cycle of discrimination, which is often ignored. According to him, economic inequality is perpetuated by limited access to public transportation, lack of access to jobs and banks profiting from public violence.

“People who are discriminated against harbor a community of suffering,” Jackson said. “Justice breeds peace. Injustice tends to bring revolt.”

Williams said she believes Chicago communities need to look toward U.S. global policies for solutions to violence.

“We need to change how we view security,” Williams said. “When people talk about security in the country, they talk about defense spending. But the way I look at it is, security is allowing people access to education, home security and a dignified job so they can find good in themselves and in their community.”

According to Williams, violence will continue unless communities understand their responsibility as U.S. citizens to voice their opinion. She said individuals in Chicago need to realize their power to prevent violence and to promote peace through communication.

While Jackson and Williams spoke on social and economic violence in Chicago, Richie sought to highlight issues and stigmas facing young women in the 21st century.

Richie referenced her time working with women in Nicaragua who had been sexually assaulted. The women managed to get rape whistles and joined together to help prevent other women from becoming victims.

“Peace is possible if we embrace justice in a comprehensive, all-inclusive way,” she said. “We have to remember the issue of gender, not only as a characteristic of people, but also as a category in the form of violence.”

As the discussion drew to a close, Jackson and Williams both agreed that in order for Chicago to prevent violence, members of the communities most affected by it must unite to speak out against crime.

“[Peace is] an active involvement in creating the world in which you want to live,” Williams said. “We all have power. It’s the decisions we make about how to use that power that can [create] change.”