Home Culture Chicago: A City On The Brink

Chicago: A City On The Brink


Chicago has a violent history. We can look back to the Race Riots of 1919, during what was called the Red Summer of 1919, which had the nation on its heels. We can even go a bit further down the historical timeline to the prohibition era event such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which rival gangs led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran engaged in a killing spree. Or, we can walk into contemporary times in which pervasive gang violence forces mothers to bury their sons, daughters and other loved ones due to malevolent acts and disregard for human life. Is this all that the city Chicago represents? Is is really the gangster city of America, or is that an unfair label?

The more recent acts of violence in Chicago are quite disconcerting on many levels. The new Mayor, Rahm Emanuel (former United States Congress and White House Chief of Staff) had essentially pledged to clean up the city, but since his arrival in May of last year homicides and violent crimes have been up by 50 percent, according to the Huffington Post. Even though he and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are pushing for anti-gang legislation and initiatives it forces me to ask one central question of: will it work? We have seen from city to city the anti-gang initiatives and measures and they only seem to do more harm than good. While the intentions may be noble, the practice usually falls flat. I can vividly envision the headlines that probably will come out of this situation. I can’t help but to get stuck in a cloud of pessimism with these types of pronouncements of “help.” I can only see more profiling, more violence and the problems of this city getting worse. What should be done then if not this to assuage the anguish that now engulfs the windy city?

The solution I offer is simple. The community needs to take this initiative into their own hands. It’s that old argument of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps that will work. Now don’t think that I am naive to the fact that some government assistance is necessary to complete this project successfully. However, a full on blitz to address this problem alone is not only the wrong approach but highly irresponsible for the city. Community leaders, organizers, ministers, teachers, coaches, small business owners need to understand the collective responsibility aspect because what King said still rings true and that is “ we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” They must know what affects one or a few directly, affects us all indirectly. It’s time for the people to take back their city. 53 shootings in one week really should light a fire in this city to take a stand against violence before the victim is someone they hold dear to their hearts.

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Growing up in a community that has experienced violence (while not on the level of Chicago), I know all too well what it feels like to attend funerals for friends and loved one who have met their demise before it was that time. One thing that has happened here and must happen around the nation is that we as active citizens in this democracy must be cognizant of our collective responsibility in a community that is decaying. Furthermore, we must reject our private comforts for the public interest. We owe this to ourselves and our posterity. I would beseech the city of Chicago and its citizens to reject the comforts of their private lives to engage in an act of saving their community. Now, this may sounds overly optimistic, but I still have faith in American ingenuity and benevolence. This is a time for faith and a time for action. Chicago has gotten through some tough times before and I have no doubt that they can do it again.


  1. I wish I could say I was optimistic. The problem is the mind. People (of all races) have chosen to settle for life "as is". They are ok with not working hard for a salary…simply collecting gov't assistance and 'makin it'. They are ok with trash thrown about. They are ok with speaking any kind of way about anything in front of children…and defend these same children when they act out in school. Not only is it ok…but they've made it cool. Its cool to look cheap and live hood. Its cool to look and sound ratchet. Its cool to spaz out over any and everything and kill over petty disagreements. Death is cool. Guns are cool. Its cool to steal and get over.

    Change the mind, change the outcome. How? I have no clue. Smh…

      1. So "change the mind, change the outcome" wasn't clear enough?

        You can spin wheels about "solutions" (including community involvement from folks who already have the right mindset) but until the mindset of the people involved changes, the killing won't stop…and neither will the other ills effecting "the ghetto".

        I hope that's more clear. If not…

        1. I think you're blaming the people instead of the people who have a duty to protect and serve. The minds of those individuals is a product of their environment. I wouldn't ever put the blame on them. That's a real house negro type of tactic. It's actually worse because you're almost insinuating that "they're savages, look at them." And we know how that goes…

        2. No. What I'm suggesting is accountability…by all parties. The cops/legislators can't prevent someone from murdering someone else. It's the murderers choice to kill. I blame weak laws and crocked cops/politicians as well. But better laws, well meaning politicians and cops alone won't win the war…cause people who have made up their minds to do dirt will find a way. No gun? I'll use a knife….a chain.

          How can a cop that doesn't live with you and follow you everywhere protect you from yourself? Refusing to hold all parties accountable for their own choices will not help anyone…in any situation…in any community.

        3. "How can a cop that doesn't live with you and follow you everywhere protect you from yourself?"

          That's their job. To Protect and Serve.

          Thanks for clearing it up. I think the best point you made was, "accountability…by all parties." I'm for that, however, i'll go into public schools and tell kids that they have the power to do better and need to hold themselves accountable for their education and to stop blaming their environment. By the same token, when those kids leave the room I let the teachers and administrators know that those kids have a valid point. They're environment is contributing to their failure.

          Keep in mind that in Chicago right now, these are kids that are being killed. KIDS. I'm not sure we can put the onus on them. There has to be some responsibility on the part of others.

        4. I hope and pray that 53 shootings in one week were NOT at the hands of 13-17 yr. olds. I have a really hard time believing its mostly kids doing this. Young Adults (18-30) are what I have in mind…but I could be very wrong on that.

          But for the type police protection it would take to prevent 53 shootings per week, it'd freakin look like Iraq in Chi-town…with cops at every turn…profiling like you couldn't imagine. Civil liberties would be in jeopardy. They'd be tap dancing on a very thin line. Criminals would simply take the crimes in-doors…which then affects a citizens right to privacy.

        5. The problem with the police is not JUST their ability to prevent the shootings. Serious question: Did you grow up middle class and in the suburbs?

        6. I never said this was the only problem…this is one perspective based on specific comments made.

          I grew up in the city and on the county line (illegally went to all county schools). I've lived both perspectives to a point. My lil sis (my Mom did foster care) is on govn't assistance with 5 1/2 kids (same daddy, lol) …my Dad is a recovering addict. My Mom was on govn't assistance till I was 6. Lived from age 10 to 19 in a city rowhouse…brick front and stoop. I could say more but…

          I hope thats enough backstory, lol…

        7. I agree with Cyn…..what needs to change more than anything is people's mentality. If these are kids the responsibility then falls on the parents, or whatever family member is raising them. If you don't make sure ur kid is in the house at a decent hour then when the cops bring them home they will just go back out later at like 3 or 4 am. An former cowrker of mine told me the one time she was able to ensure her teenage son didn't leave the house at 2 or 3 am is when her friend who was a cop was kind enough to actually stand guard at her house all nite. He did this as a favor because this was a man she was dating I think…all cops realistically cannot do that.
          If parents cannot control their kids and handle them what makes u think cops can? Legally cops can only do so much. Best bet is to send their bad butts to the military boot camp like school. But problem with that is many people can't afford it. So many obstacles and few real Permanent solutions. It's not all black and white……many many shades of gray.

        8. I also had a former cowrker who was a single mom and her daughter never went to school. She stayed skipping school. This woman was a dept supervisor and she could only take but so much time off of work. Unfortunately the girls father didn't do his part. I blame her mom in choosing a sperm donor and not a really great responsible dad to get knocked up by.
          Once thats done though whats done is done. Everything is on her. Best thing she can do is try to rally as much help as she can from friends, family and any other source she can get it.
          At any rate, point is since she had to work to make money to pay the bills realistically, she could only do but so much to ensure that her teenage daughter stayed in school the full school day.

        9. RIGHT!!!!

          I was talking to my bf about this last night…who agreed with me and he grew up in projects so bad that they tore them down…and he couldn't even believe that I didn't mention that I grew up in "The Wire"/"The Corner" literally, not in the heart of it…but on the edge of it. Not to mention…my biological father and his side of the fam lives on the South side of Chicago…my 1st blood cousins are in and out of jail…one is running from a warrant as we speak…the one that I extended an invitation to live with me when he was a pre-teen…cause I saw it coming. So when I say its the mentality that needs to change, I have every right to say that.

        10. You're on the fringe of these places….what have you been doing in the local community to aid that decision?

        11. I wouldn't be too suprised if that wasn't an avoidance tactic and a genuine question from years of laziness.

          I'm just gonna lol. I'll wait for you to answer the question.

        12. That was a serious question cause I'm not sure what decision I mentioned making in any of my comments. But believe what you want…

        13. wow…

          I'm really with the whole "That's their job mentality." That to me is what a police force is for. People don't need to feel looked at as brutes and threats by police which encourages defensiveness and almost solidifies the need to be violent because that's what you're giving attention to. Maybe if police gave attention to gang members as humans beings it may make a difference. Change minds.

          At the same token, improve the environment.

          A changed mind in a new environment. Sounds good in theory to me.

  2. This is a tragedy and i'm glad that we have Dre to speak on it. First off, let's welcome him into the fold as a contributor here at SBM. The problem here is when the local government and police devalue the lives of certain folks. I'll tell you right now if there were 3-4 murders of white folks in Chicago, the news would be up in arms. Some of the stuff that's going on in Chicago right now is downright absurd… they need more police on the streets and task forces dedicated to locking down on violence.

    1. The problem is also the people in these communities not valuing each others lives too. Some of the blame HAS to go to the people actually doing the killing.

      1. If someone walked in my house at this very moment with a gun….the instinctual response would be to kill. I'm in the suburbs. I can only imagine the pent up energy and impulses having that be an actuality and a constant one at that. I understand making the decision to not go down that path and I understand the concept of holding murderers responsible, but blaming an angry, hurt man for lashing out is reckless. They don't have the luxury of making rational decisions and having a whole community support such a thing. I'm not sure what Jay's getting at but piggybacking off his point, I think police should serve young men just as a Sponsor would to an alcholic just as there are suicide hotlines that intervene and provide info on safe places to go. Why not do the same for young men in gangs? Who better to do this than public servants who's job description is to protect. Maybe it's not about blame so much as it is implementing solutions.

        1. I don't think it's realistic.

          I don't think it would happen.

          I do think it's a completely jusitified expectation. "blame the person ho just witnessed his friends and family murdered" does not sit kindly with me when considering the subsequent decision making process. What is his alternative?

    2. Welcome Dre….*smile*
      Doc J since many decades ago crime has been more widely accepted in the black and hispanic community than any other and I think we all know the "conspiracy theory" reasons behind this.
      Your right though, this is very very tragic and hopefully ChiTown will start finding ways to decrease their crime rate and get better control of the situation.

  3. Funny i was just talking about this with my parents like two days ago. Freshman year, I had a roommate who was a Chicago native and as I'm hearing about the horrible murders that are transpiring over there I feel like I'm forced to call him every couple days just to check to see if my mans still breathing. He texted me last week saying he lost 3 of his mans that he graduated with last month..bringing that to 10 being murdered in his graduation class (2009)… sh*t is crazy man..

  4. The blame the white man excuse is getting kind of tired… How the hell can you blame 53 shootings in one week on the police. I repeat 53 in a WEEK!!! Im far from an uncle tom or black conservative(lol) but we have to take accountability for our own dirt. When everyone is in the club drunk going crazy to Chief Keef who glorifies Chicago's violence to the fullest is that the cops fault too? We have to admit the ugly truth that gangster culture is celebrated and even rewarded in some instances in the black community. If you live by the gun you die by the gun, you old enough to cross the street you old enough to get hit. I hate to sound harsh but thats the reality of life.

    1. Its a known fact that police in the inner cities are dirty and corrupt as hell, why would we expect them to stop us from killing each other. I find it crazy that Dr J and Malik are questioning cynical 81's "street cred" for calling for self accountability. If I go out and kill someone its not totally my fault, its really the lazy police who didnt stop me from harming another person??? You cant be serious. Now dont get me wrong the inner cities are in a full on crisis due to issues such as unemployment and poor school systems but those are things that are out our control. However one is in total control when they decide to pull a trigger. Im sorry i cant feel too sorry for you if you brag on your city's murder rate one day and cry for help the next.

      1. "If I go out and kill someone its not totally my fault, its really the lazy police who didnt stop me from harming another person??? You cant be serious."


  5. that’s crazy. i don’t know what it’s like to grow up in an environment like that, but i do believe it’s up to all parties involved to make their community a safer place…more afterschool/summer activites, jobs for teens, more community involvement in policing tactics, more men of tje community doing patrols of thier own blocks…and more people choosing to do the right thing rather than the quick/ready thing.

    just my thoughts.

  6. Wow. This was a really refreshing perspective. I'm on board with the notion of citizens putting aside their personal and private comforts to get involved in the community. It's refreshing to hear. I really do think it starts at the basic level of selflessness. When it comes to gangs though I'm a bit cautious, obviously, because I wouldn't advice people to put themselves in harms way. I would be interested to hear a hodge podge of ideas on how to do this though. I would go so far as to say it's up to the gang members to decide that isn't the life for them but it's also up to the community to ensure the stability of an alternative. Government can enforce their stance.

    At least that's how I see it.

  7. I have no idea how you corral an issue like this… But I hope that those in a position to make quick change do so… I will continue to be cognizant of who I impregnate so my offspring doesn't have to be raised or contribute to a warzone like Chicago

    Welcome Dre, I like the fact that you bring awareness to the topic and look forward to future writings

  8. I'm living in Chicago and I agree that you cannot blame the police. The mentality of these folks has to change. I honestly don't know how to fix this problem. Some people say we should implement harsher laws, but I always feel as if they never get the rite people. They imprison someone for something petty to try and set an example instead of the person that committed a totally egregious act. People suggest having community forums and such, but once again, the people who NEED to hear these things never do. Someone also suggested having Black men patrol the streets. Not gonna happen. You can't say anything to these people and you never know what they're holding. So while that may SOUND like a good suggestion, in reality, it's just not safe. And I hate to say it but I am truly saddened by my young Black people. Navy Pier was FULL of these hopeless HIGH SCHOOL CHILDREN last nite. Supposedly there was a fight that broke out in front of the children's museum and these Black children are running TOWARD it. They want something to pop off. I honestly don't know how you can fix this situation, but I hope it gets better. I'm going back to school in August but my little brother is beginning his first year of high school in September. I would hate to have to get "that call". I love my city and it's the best when people act right but this hot weather…

  9. part of me feels guilty that I'm from Chicago, but in the light of all of these murders I don't flinch about whether my people are safe. I think it's a tragedy. I think it's a travesty.. and I think it's something that is rooted in problems so deep that it will take time to address. One of my cousin's best friends was killed a few years ago, when Chicago just started becoming Murder City, and I remember the article in the newspaper describing him as a college athlete full of promise, who worked hard…. and I shook my head, because the young man I knew, was a hardcore drug dealer, travelling up and down Illinois making money.. Does that mean his life was less valuable than the boy described in the news story? No. But it means we have to face reality.. we have to find a way to give these young men jobs and give them some hope of making it. We have to provide comprehensive sex ed and contraception, so they aren't 17 trying ot make money to support a family. We have to teach our daughters to not lust after the material things so that there isn't the lure…

    And everyone does need to stand up.. Those who are not in the community, those who simply recognize that another child lost is unacceptable. But my reality is.. I'm honestly not about that life, and I don't want to go anywhere near it.

  10. Where the minds goes, the body follows. I agree with Cyn! Looking outside for 'change' has been to our detriment.

    If I cut my wrist and that doctor's are unable to save me….is my death on the doctor's or me? I think that some people just don't know any better. I have learned that some places are worlds unto themselves. It will take LOVE of our community to penetrate those worlds. First, we have to CARE and stop acting like this mess isn't happening. Denial is rampant today. How can we continue to go through life not uplifting each other. I am tired of hearing false claims of 'people don't want to change".

    Have we ALL truly TRIED to help?????

    1. I think the problem is people don't want to get their hands dirty. People don't want to help. People don't care. and they just won't admit that. It's distasteful and then they are so arrogant as to look down on such people…..and this is within our own community. Blaming someone for needing help as opposed to helping them is cruel and inhumane. Everyone seems to be ignoring the most blatant and obvious hole in the entire argument 'it's as easy as them changing a mentality'. Really? That's all it takes?

      So when a young man in the heart of a gang infested area witnesses his best friend murdered and decides not to retaliate when his gang brothers are threatening HIM with violence, singing Kumbaya doesn't seem like the smart thing to do, not to mention the rival gang is testing him to see if they can creep up his block, into his home, be ACTUAL threats to the lives of his family…..again. Imagine that. as your lifestyle. A constant. Do you people really think there is the option to change without outside support?

      1. I almost feel like 'how dare you open your mouth'. Not at you in particular. Just in general. People who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and then think they have the right to criticise. smfh. lol @ how highkey heated I am with a lowkey attitude. If you've done nothing in your community or in other communities to help or to provide safe places or really to do anything than be quiet. Stop judging. "Changing your mentality" is absolutely what needs to be done just as people on the fringe of such neighborhoods should be support systems for those who do.

        "Don't look at me you hurt angry, savage".

        Fear based statement with absolutely no love or understanding to be found. Fear. Gets people killed. Those who don't do anything are just as much to blame for not implementing solutions or alternatives. lol @ being afraid to love a gang member. Human beings disgust me.

        1. I'm not saying walk into the heart of Chicago and dish out hugs because it's dangerous. JUST LIKE IT'S DANGEROUS for people living in those places to do it. A cop, a trained officer, someone with the gear and the knowledge and the training, should take it upon himself to go into such a place for people who change their minds and need to be removed from the environment. People on the fringe sittin somewhat pretty should have been setting up things so that such people can get their lives together. If you haven't been doing that and you haven't been in the position to know how it feels and you aren't willing to understand it and you aren't willing to help, stop judging. You have no accountability whatsoever. and again, general statement. not specifically to you.

  11. The news and the radio has an Ph.D in Propoganda I'm not saying that it is not out of control in the Chi, but everyone has so much to say but they are not offering any valuable solutions yeah I understand pull yourself up by the bootstraps, But as I recall every time someone tries to stand up and help the communty to stand up on their own two feet they get eliminated For example..Fred Hampton an honorable black panther got killed by the police, for being suspect of conspiring against the government…REALLY?! I'm not trying to make it about race.but there are not alot of caucasians in the hood. I am from the westside of chicago and lived on the southside for two years. The drug dealers and the gangbangers and petty theives and the people in the impoverished areas, are to the point where they don't even care anymore about the young children or innocent bystandards or other criminals getting killed they are trying to get by, they don't care about the psychological part, that they need to get their mind right and unify if they want to see change in their environment All they care about is finding their next meal how are they are going to get their rent paid and living the next day to do it all over again.

  12. Not sure what I think, but TechCrunch thinks the handshake is unsanitary and needs to be abandoned entirely. (Yes, they saw fit to comment on the subject, I suppose you shake hands a lot when dealing with entrepeneurs.) I do agree with the unsanitary part. And I mean, it's supposedly designed to show you're not holding a weapon, which I hope would be a foregone conclusion in a business meeting.


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