January 31, 2017
Twista to Trump: Don’t send feds, send books
by Susan Rella
Add Twista to the ever-growing list of people pissed off at President Trump.
The former Fastest Rapper in the World (per Guinness) and brains behind 2004’s number-one hit “Slow Jamz” took offense at Donald Trump’s recent Twitter threat to send “the feds” into Chicago to lower that city’s murder rate.
Twista, of course, isn’t alone in his outrage. This one tweet caused a surge in reporting on crime and Chicago, as well as on Trump’s Twitter habits. And while it’s entertaining to question the president’s timing (with many noting the tweet coincided very neatly with an “O’Reilly Factor” segment on crime in Chicago), it’s less fun to look at his motives. Because with Trump, it’s become clear that “criminal” and “inner-city” are just two helpful, synonymous adjectives he can use to describe black Americans — part of a long-standing pattern of the president incorrectly assessing crime rates in areas with significant black populations (ex: the murder rate in general, Rep. John Lewis’s congressional district in particular).
If he were really eager to stem the tide of crime in Chicago—which, by the way, is not the most violent city in the nation, and not even in the top ten—he could look into reversing nearby Indiana’s lax gun laws, which Vice President Mike Pence shepherded in, Christ-like, during his tenure as governor. Not only did the murder rate in Indianapolis rise under Pence to the highest point in its history (exceeding Chicago’s), but Chicago police estimate that roughly one-fifth of the guns used in violent crimes in that city come from Indiana.
Twista’s solution is way cooler: books, not troops. In a video now going viral, the rapper claims that better after-school programs and more books in school libraries would bring the change the city needs — not imposing martial law on this country’s third-largest city (and just to reiterate, Trump threatened this on his fourth day in office, and no, none of this is normal at all).
This is a spot-on solution. While Chicago may not be one of the US’s most violent cities, it does have one of the nation’s lowest literacy rates: fifty-three percent, according to New York Times reporting from a few years back. And to Twista’s point, just twenty-seven percent of Chicago Public Schools fourth-graders, and twenty-four percent of eighth-graders, are deemed proficient in reading. Depressing to say the least.
Add to this Trump’s threat to cut funding for sanctuary cities, of which Chicago is one, and the still-very-present danger posed by Betsy DeVos as secretary of education (please don’t forget about that pending confirmation), and the outlook becomes even more bleak. Chicago’s public education system depends on federal aid; last year, fifteen percent of the city’s public school budget came from federal taxes: $897.2 million. If the charter-school-loving, non-public-school-attending DeVos gets confirmed, Chicago—like most large cities—will definitely see a cut in their funding.
As Twista says, this should be Chicago’s—and the nation’s—wake-up call.
Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.