Adjustable Laws! ...the punishments do not fit the crimes...

Sometimes it's hard to choose which word is most appropriate:

It's ironic!
It's hypocritical!
It's mean!
It's unequal!
It's unfair!
It's blatant discrimination!
It's classic bullying of the poor and disenfranchised!
It's traumatizing an already traumatized people!
It's how the power of money and gentrification takes pleasure in blatantly squashing those without money or assets!
It's demoralizing!
It's mass incarceration in action!
It's kicking someone in the face who's already been knocked down repeatedly!

What is this photo and what am I writing about? 

This brief illustration and the photo sums up what I was trying to articulate in my last post: "The Punishments Do Not Fit The Crimes!" In that post, I attempted to illustrate how those experiencing homelessness are criminalized! I attempted to show, through my observations, how unfair and unjust it can be! I attempted to illustrate how the odds are stacked against my friends at CCO and on the street. 

The above photo shows a bike lane and a walking path going under a bridge. Last year, the Wilson viaduct had about 30 tents under it, filled with people trying to survive and get a home of their own. In September, the City cleared everyone out, so they could do construction and then make it uninhabitable to those experiencing homelessness by putting up fences, ridges, and these bike lanes! 

So here comes the slap in the face, and the way it directly relates to my other post!

Did you know: It is illegal to ride bikes on the sidewalk in Chicago? 
Did you know that you can be ticketed, arrested and even jailed for riding a bike on the sidewalk in Chicago?

This is an adjustable law. It is enforced sometimes, yet ignored most of the time. I walk around Uptown every day. I see people ride on the sidewalk in front of the police all the time. I also see this law being enforced from time-to-time. 

Even though young and old, along with every race and gender love to ride around Uptown on the sidewalks, I bet you can guess who the victims almost always are? Yes, you got it, young black men and folk experiencing homelessness. 

Stewart is on the right side of this photo
- helping our friends in Uptown Tent City 
I live in a 10-story building. There are many bike riders living here, yet the only person I know who's been ticketed for this is Stewart, he's a happy-go-lucky young black man with a disability. Due to this, it wouldn't be wise for him to ride on the street and when the cops pulled him over, he didn't even know what he was doing wrong. What a traumatic experience for a young fella who loves to ride his bike! 

Who's Stewart? check out these links: The Gift of Stewart Brown and Everybody Loves Stewart!

Just this week, I was talking to a past Uptown Tent City resident, this man was lamenting how many times he was ticketed for riding on the sidewalks down Wilson Avenue. Now, where he once had a tent, is where people can legally ride their bikes. In his anger, he articulated very well, how discriminatory and contradictory these bright green lanes truly are! He revealed how these bright green lanes show cruel prejudice! How's that for a slap in the face?

I was standing in front of my house one afternoon talking with someone when I heard the police siren and yelling over their loudspeakers. Thomas, who lived in a tent under Wilson at the time, jumped off his bike, left his bike on the sidewalk and quickly approached the squad car. Another homeless man having to face the trauma of police questioning and a ticket for simply riding his bike on the sidewalk. That's all he did! Now he also sees these bright green lanes where he once had a tent. How's that for a slap in the face? 

This is my issue: both of these men were homeless, black and around 50-years-old. Both these men have faced this trauma on multiple occasions, yet I know people who ride their bikes on the sidewalks nearly every day and have never experienced what Thomas did that day right in front of me. This law punishes some, yet excuses others! Now, to make matters worse, to increase the bias, bright green bikes scream of how discriminatory this law is!

This bright green lane screams of being a cruel joke! Yet, it's real.

All this reminds me of when a group of powerful bloodthirsty men tried to test Jesus. These laws that condemn one yet overlook the other are nothing new! They wanted to stone to death the woman caught in the act of adultery. They wanted to kill her because she had broken the law, yet only one of the two caught was in the judgment seat. She was the marginalized one, she was the disgraced one, but the question needs to be asked; where was her partner? 

Jesus knew they used the law to their advantage, not for justice! He knew they had made the law adjustable to serve their own means. He knew justice was being perverted and this woman was on verge of being executed under false pretenses. He knew she needed Kingdom Love in a climate of unjust judgment towards the fragile. 

When Jesus spoke, he pointed out the error and discrimination of those self-righteous thugs carrying stones. He turned it on them, helping them realize they were guilty too. As a result of declaring “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, the condemning men left, one by one by one! Through a courageous act of love, Jesus brought freedom and peace to that condemned and traumatized woman.

We may not be able to change the climate of racist and classist adjustable laws, but we can all, like Jesus, help bring justice, love, and hope into our corners of the world. We can lift up those who the State loves to tear down. In our weakness, we can bring love and compassion into our midst.


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