By Dustin Seibert
When I was in Madrid last week, I encountered a soccer mom-esque lady from Montana who, upon finding out where I lived, said, “You know, 60 people were killed in Chicago this past weekend.” Of course, she was off in the details (60 people were shot; exponentially less were killed), but it reminded me how misunderstood Chicago really is.
As a Detroit native, I’ve spent most of my life dealing with folks’ assumption that D-Town is like f*cking Beirut, but Detroit slander is so 2011 — the Chi’s ridiculous rate of gun violence has made international headlines as of late (I caught a television story about the July 4 weekend shootings while in Turkey), which invariably leads to a bunch of half-assed pundits and armchair sociologists bloviating about what they think are viable solutions.
Admittedly, the solution(s) are far more complex than the problems. But since so many people get both wrong all the damn time, I figured I’d break down the reasons behind Chicago violence so it can forever be broken. No need to read a dense academic paper on the issue; I have it right here — boldface, bullet points and all.
- Racism is a bitch: Chicago’s police superintendent would have us believe that weak gun laws are to blame for the increased gun violence in recent years. But that’s like saying the pit bull’s sharp teeth are to blame for the fact that he took a chunk out of the ass of little Suzie next door: The issue from which gun violence is derived is a systemic perpetuation of poverty, underemployment, and poor education that will exist as long as the Powers That Be continue giving nary a shit about the black and brown people that are the vast majority of victims and perpetrators of this violence. Despite what Mayor Rahm Emanuel says publicly about the issue, no one around these parts with any sense believes that he or anyone else above his pay grade have invested in anything outside of Band-Aid solutions, like hiring more cops. Anything related to an elevated police presence or martial law, as that idiot Roland S. Martin suggested, is a stopgap solution that ignores the heart of the problem.
- Gentrification is also a bitch: It’s true that gangs are behind much of Chicago’s gun violence, as they are plentiful and deep-rooted in Chicago’s street culture. But it’s he destruction of Chicago’s public housing that led to much of the city’s increased gun violence: Project housing often serves as gang territory, so when they’re razed, gang members are stratified and forced to cross rival gang territory. The result is “West Side Story” with more semiautomatic weapons and Twitter boasts.
- It’s all centralized: A friend I haven’t seen in many years recently asked me via Facebook where I live. When I told him Chicago, he said, “You left Detroit for Chicago?? That’s like going from the frying pan into the fire. Do you have your bulletproof vest?” Just as I’ve had to explain to folks that stray bullets don’t embed themselves in your ass the moment you step south of 8 Mile Road in Detroit, I’ve had to explain to numerous people that the headline-making Chicago violence is largely centralized to neighborhoods in the city’s south and west sides, with very few exceptions. The North Side, where I live, has a couple sketchy neighborhoods but is still largely home to yuppies, Venti Frappuccinos, outdoor patios and yoga pants-wearing mothers rolling strollers up the sidewalk. By virtue of it being a major metropolitan area, crime happens all over Chicago, but I don’t worry about catching a stray bullet walking outside of my crib at night. Thanks, segregation!
- Chief Keef is not to blame: Thanks to the inexplicable popularity of Chief Keef and the atrocious “drill” rap culture, folks think that Keef and his contemporaries are to blame for all this violence. Nah. Despite Keef’s comments, he barely has control of his own faculties, let alone the ability to singlehandedly spur all this bloodshed.
- Chicago’s still a world-class city: It’s the third-largest city in the union and has just about everything you love about New York and none of what you hate about it. Nowhere in the continental United States has a better summer than the Chi, and just about anyone would consider living in this bitch if the winters didn’t absolutely blow goats and it was on a seaboard. It has some of the best cuisine, the largest museums and a nonpareil sports culture. Far as I can see, the violence has had no effect on these things, and I’m sure it won’t.