Chicago just had another bloody weekend. The entire country is looking at my city like it’s a war zone. And in many ways it is.
By the time you read this, I’m sure you will have heard about another violent weekend we’ve had here in Chicago. I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but sadly I’m not. I would say that I’m starting to feel numb to the violence but my heart still aches every single time I hear about a young life cut short because of gun violence.
It’s so gritty in my city. But at the same time, there’s so much love. If I was on the outside looking in, I would probably be scared. I would wonder why people live there. I mean if 40 people can get shot in one weekend, how can anyone survive? And I have no answer for that. All I can you say is “It’s not like that everywhere.” And it’s not.
I’ve never heard a single gunshot since I’ve lived in Hyde Park. But in Woodlawn where my friend lives, she hears gunshots almost on a daily basis. She only lives 10 blocks away but it might as well be a different world. She lives in a low-income neighborhood plagued by drugs and crime. The nook of Hyde Park has been called elitist by the main-stream media but to us in Chicago, it’s just a “good neighborhood.”
The structure of Chicago itself is partially to blame for the spike in violence that seems to occur and get worse every summer. The Southside of Chicago is predominately black and middle-class. The Southside was home to some of the most notorious housing projects such as Stateway Gardens, Ida B. Wells and Dearborn homes. The destruction of many of the city’s projects has sent many of those residents to live in different parts of the city, possibly igniting new gang feuds and causing conflict. The Northside of the city is predominately white. The racial and social disparities were drawn out long before I was here but it still affects us.
If you travel on the Redline (train) from the Northside to the Southside, it’s like going to another world. Where there’s thriving businesses and nightlife up north, on the Southside there’s the familiar combination of liquor store, currency exchange, school and church.
Those are the businesses that thrive. And of course McDonald’s. Jobs are scarce. Opportunities are scarce. Activities for teenagers and young children are almost non-existent.
It may seem like I’m rambling but all of these factors are why Chicago seems to be a hot bed for senseless violence. Fortunately I’ve never had to go to sleep to gunshots or dodge bullets in my life. But for many people, like my friend Jasmine, it’s a daily reality. When I watch the news, I can’t even believe that this is happening where I live. This simply isn’t the Chicago where I grew up. Even the so-called good neighborhoods are deteriorating. My dad and his family had lived in Chatham for over 50 years.
In 2010, my dad was robbed at gunpoint right in front of his home. These days my dad doesn’t even like to leave the house after dark.
The city of Chicago is home to some amazing people that want to live in peace. But in many parts of the city, people that live in despair. People have moved away from Chicago in record numbers to find this peace.
I love my city but I feel helpless. What can we do to stop this? Mayor Emanuel and the new police Chief Garry McCarthy believe that an increased police presence will help deter crime. But from the news reports, it doesn’t seem to be helping. There’s always police around. Yet crime rates continue to rise.
It’s clear we need to find another way. I’m not sure what we can do. But it’s clear we have to act now.
How many more young black youth have to die before we realize that we’re losing an entire generation right in front of our eyes?