“James’ film, mighty and heart-wrenching, follows members of CeaseFire, tough negotiators who monitor gang activity in their neighborhoods and try to anticipate developing warfare. They make it their business to know the gang leaders and members. They build trust. In some shots in this film, they are physically in the possible line of fire — and so are Steve James and his small crew. They might as well be in a war zone. Indeed, the movie opens with the information that during early 2009 as many people died of street violence in Chicago as U.S. soldiers did in Iraq and Afghanistan; 20 died in one night here. Do not think only of Chicago. This is a national epidemic, its toll much larger than our deaths in war.
CeaseFire leaders hold a harrowing series of meetings to report on events in their districts and share their plans. James follows them on their rounds, watching as a knife fight is broken up by an Interrupter. They’re up against an embedded mindset: Violence inspires retribution, and retribution inspires violence.”
Reformed gang members, what these men and women do is something that would be that much harder if they didn’t have the kind of credit that past gives them (with present-day gang members). It’s still very daunting, but if you think human life in a city’s “ghetto” is valuable, then you can likely see the necessity.
The vast majority of such places, however, don’t have interrupters, and even if they did and they successfully curb an incident of mindless violence, how do they fix what makes people join up with some crew caught up in the cycle, in the first place? For plenty of people “ghetto” or not, what passes for ‘living’ is mindless repetition. The pursuit of mindlessness has actually supplanted the pursuit of any decent dream for many, and that’s just the way some people like it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to profit from so much crap.
One of the issues black people face is how hard it is to build a positive identity on what’s put in front of them. Society has been reinforcing a stereotype of mindless, vice-driven black people for decades, and what’s more, it’s become cool. That’s the end all, be all for many. Coolness is validation that’s in use by the loudest voices on the block. What does it matter if someone on a nicer street twenty (or more) blocks away watches “The Wire” and gets to feel validated by seeing a bigger picture that all the low-level players don’t want to see?