I have a friend moving to Chicago this fall to start a master’s program at the University of Chicago. As she prepares to leave from her Washington, D.C.-area home, many people in her life have expressed some degree of fear for her safety following her move. As if the moment she steps out into clear air at O’Hare Airport, a bullet will graze her in the ass.
Her people’s reaction reminded me how white folks in the suburbs of Detroit perceived that city in the 1990s (and probably still do); surely, venturing anywhere south of 8 Mile Road spelled your imminent and violent demise.
I’m not too naive to recognize how easy it is to develop a jaundiced perspective of a city or region based strictly on what we see on the news. Detroit’s local news in the 1990s was about as depressing as … Chicago’s local news in 2016.
However, these days, Chicago makes the national news for its gun-related bloodshed—oftentimes following a long, warm holiday weekend in which folks have more time on their hands for shootin’. In the Chicagoland region itself, you can’t turn on the news, crack open a newspaper or open a local news website without hearing or reading about how gun violence is getting worse or how it’s disproportionately affecting poor black folks.
It’s certainly not much ado about nothing: We’re at 383 homicides this year as of this writing. We’re the third-largest city in the union, but we’re slaying the two largest cities in gun violence. Our mayor, Rahm Emanuel, fired the police superintendent late last year in large part because of his inability to curb the problem … not that there’s a hell of a lot he could do on his own.
Those of us who actually live in the city—who care enough to pay attention to what’s going on and are savvy enough not to treat the media as gospel—have a different perspective: We recognize Chicago as the world-class city it is while acknowledging that its problems are at once exigent and overblown. There are manners of conduct you should understand if you come here, but it is not like Beirut in the 1990s.
Sure, the suggestion that Al Capone’s enduring legacy has forever cemented Chicago as a gangster city makes for a sexy narrative, but it’s inaccurate at best and offensive at worst; the problems are easy to pinpoint and yet complicated to solve. Just do me a favor and mollywhop anyone who suggests to you that Black Lives Matter or black-on-black crime is the sole culprit.
There are four umbrella issues that allow for the gang problems and gun violence within the city. I’m no sociologist, and I’m sure academic studies abound on the problems in Chicago as I type. But I see exactly what’s going on around me (and I’s did go to school, suh), so hopefully this can help demystify things for people who have casually wondered what in the unholy f–k is going on in Chicago these days.
Source: The Root | DUSTIN J. SEIBERT