Sweep Searches--The Rights of the Community, and the Guarantees of the Fourth and First Amendments: Moms of the Chicago Public Housing Complex, Revisit Your Civil and Constitutional Rights and Save your Babies
African-American babies are an endangered species. They have the potential to live to the ripe old age of fourteen. We are singing new songs of overcoming-overcoming the loss of our babies. However, it's the same song: the lyrics are Black, and the music is, as always, White. Across the nation let us hold hands, let us gather together, let us save our babies. Will the music, the lyrics of our collective songs, save our babies? Is there a collective voice? There must be a collective voice if we are to save our babies and WE must save them if we are to survive. When we saw the tragedy involving the babies in Oklahoma City, we cried. We did not believe that someone could hurt our babies. We were sickened, we were hurt, we became enraged. Get them, find them, those inhuman creatures-they hurt and killed our babies. The cry is no different for the moms in Chicago public housing. They cry out, "Save our Babies," but their voices, their lyrics are drowned in the sounds of blackness. Although the constant-"save our babies"-remains, the savior's voice has been transformed. The moms of Chicago public housing are now crying "let us save our own babies. Let us relinquish our individual constitutional rights of privacy that we fought so hard for in an effort to save our babies, our own babies." The government's response (the music) to the moms, was in its usual whiteness: "No, you can't save your babies by waiving your neighbors' constitutional rights. Constitutional rights are individual rights, not community rights, and although we built this city for you, we have no obligation to save your babies from your neighbors, because the constitution protects you from us and we ain't doing nothing." Before you give up hope, moms, let's revisit civil rights and constitutional rights. Let's revisit with the mission to save our own babies, and let's do it legal style. In this paper, I am addressing fundamental issues involving the Fourth and First Amendments to the United States Constitution. In addressing these particular competing constitutional claims I am concerned that the article is accessible to a wide variety of readers. Readers of particular interest are women within the Chicago housing complex. (This group is particularly interested due to the large number of single parent households headed by women.) However, it is also directed at lawyers who litigate sweep searches claims with public housing complexes, legislators making decisions about clean sweeps, and judges. Because the audience is so diverse I am making a conscious effort to modify my language. My purpose for targeting these particular groups is to empower my sisters and address a crucial social problem with an effort to help severely disadvantaged kids survive. In choosing voice in the introduction, I recognize that African Americans are not a monolithic group of people and my use of "music" may be confusing to some. Music is important to most groups, but in different ways. Music is sometimes used by the African-American community to express a wide variety of concerns, causes, and their present state of mind. For example, rap music tends to explore and report the life of urban America today. The blues arose from a need to expose the effects of, but at the same time give a way to live with, discrimination. Gospel is saving grace: how we get over and how we endure. With jazz we don't have to necessarily sing about our plight; we can simply feel whatever we want to feel. Our minds give us the lyrics for jazz and we control. I use the voice of music for the discussion of the appearance that the government believes that the lives of the white community are more important than the lives of people of color. This article explores whether residents of the Chicago Housing Complex (hereinafter, the Complex), in particular a double minority group, women of color, can be empowered to resolve problems in their community. The major problem in the community is the demise of the youth in the Complex. Their demise leads to incarceration or death at an early age due to drugs, violence, and the inability to leave the Complex. The cycle is inevitable and constant. It has been suggested that residents of the Complex want to waive their Fourth Amendment privacy protections and allow police to conduct sweep searches. I propose that the sweeps should be allowed as a viable solution for the residents but only in the event that a super-majority of the residents agree to them. Further, the residents be permitted to decide when to terminate the sweep searches. I challenge readers to go beyond their understanding of the protections afforded by the United States Constitution and pose for them a consideration of the enforcement of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. In the housing projects, enjoyment of Fourth Amendment protections infringes upon the First Amendment's guaranties and vice versa. The practicalities and intersections of these infringements are addressed in the paper. I strongly suggest that community empowerment is the only viable solution for the residents of the Chicago Housing Complex. Community empowerment is not a new concept. Like other instances of empowerment, the group most affected by the controversy has to decide its own solution. It should be no different with the residents of the Chicago Housing Complex. I address the sweep searches controversy from the position of the plight of the children. In fashioning a solution I examine the intersectional predicament precipitated by the privacy guaranty of the Fourth Amendment coupled with the rights of a community to safeguard its citizens. I argue that the First Amendment affords the residents, in particular the children, of the Chicago Housing Complex certain guarantees. I recommend that the courts and government balance the residents' freedom from unreasonable searches with the freedom of association and decide the controversy in favor of the tilt of the scales. Alternately, I also recommend that we simply allow the community, through a super-majority, to decide the controversy as we have historically done when the victims were not African-Americans.
Lundy Langston, Sweep Searches--The Rights of the Community, and the Guarantees of the Fourth and First Amendments: Moms of the Chicago Public Housing Complex, Revisit Your Civil and Constitutional Rights and Save your Babies, 11 Wis. WOMEN's L.J. 259 (1996).