Growing up in Chicago, you’re never really surprised at the subtle but overall glaring racism that occurs here. It can be as simple as my mother letting me know early that “we don’t go to Bridgeport” to the pervasive stop & frisk that has been occurring in the city long before it hit the headlines in NYC.
More recently as the headlines have gotten louder and the crimes have gotten more attention, the code language has become more acceptable for folks to say. Working in the private sector gives you the opportunity to really get to know people. Folks are easy to let certain things slip because it doesn’t seem to be a problem or it doesn’t sound racist. Oh but it is.
For close to 4 years, I worked in the western suburbs of Chicago. The main expressway that leads there from the city is I290, the Eisenhower Expressway also known as the Heroin highway as it is the main artery between the west side of Chicago, known for its drug trade and the comforts of the upscale suburbs like Naperville and Downers Grove. On those really bad traffic days (and trust me there were many of them) there are a few shortcuts you can take to get to the job. Those short cuts would take you through the Westside and through the upper middle class suburb of Oak Park.
One morning my former boss was telling other coworkers about how she had to drive through “those sketchy” (read: black) neighborhoods to get to work. Nevermind the neighborhood she was referring to Oak Park and that it was 8 o’clock in the morning. Apparently, there was a hidden danger there that I wasn’t aware of.
What’s even more disturbing is how comfortable she and others like her feel about saying shit like that. It’s kind of like when a white person calls something ghetto. Well what’s ghetto? What is exactly sketchy? So it was really no surprise when the news broke that 2 “budding entrepreneurs” created a sketchy neighborhood app.
I mean it doesn’t sound racist right? Sketchy is code word for black.
What determines a neighborhood’s sketchiness? The crime rate? Who lives there? The diversity? Or lack thereof?
The reality is that most people rarely venture into unknown area or areas they’ve never been. For decades, Black folks have been pulled over and questioned, accused and even murdered for being in the wrong neighborhood.
Have you ever seen a car of Caucasians really in danger in the so-called hood?
You would literally see the Calvary strolling down King Drive to make sure that they’re safe.