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Confession–sometimes I’ll turn on the news and see wealthy White people crying about crime in their neighborhoods. Meanwhile, l’ll just grab some popcorn and watch the dramatics unfold with the spirit of indifference radiating from my body.
And I know it sounds cruel. However, this is what Black and Brown people in low-income, segregated communities in Chicago and other major cities have been dealing with for years with no empathy and no relief.
For the longest, privilege in socioeconomic status is what convinced middle and upper income constituents that chaos would be contained to poorer neighborhoods while they lived worry-free in their Pleasantville bubbles. The rationale: the have nots that cause commotion can’t afford to live in or patronize the businesses in our community so we’re good over here, and they’ll keep that trouble over there.
But since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, violent crimes have increased nationwide and it’s not staying where it’s supposed to. Instead, it’s rapidly spilling into the haves’ communities and urban economic centers. They’re finding out that those metaphorical tables actually do turn.
Here’s the truth: there’s a double-standard in what qualifies and is addressed as a public health crisis and it comes from bias in socioeconomic status. Basically, the powers that be are more interested in protecting money than people.
Chicago is an example of the damaging effect of gun violence
For example, in Chicago we’ve seen an uptick in crime in the downtown area and on the north side of the city. Lincoln Park – a north side neighborhood with a median income of $115k – has been hit especially hard lately.
A 23-year-old recent culinary school graduate is the latest victim in a rash of crimes in the community, shot several times in an armed robbery. Some people in Lincoln Park feel a constant fear looming over them, terrified because “this” doesn’t happen in their community.
Needless to say, the city is springing into immediate action downtown and in Lincoln Park. The rationale: we can’t let the rich people leave the city or allow the rich tourists to be afraid to come to the city.
Elected officials are outraged and police patrols are being ramped up in those areas. This means that days off will be canceled, overtime will have to be paid (which comes out of our pockets) and there will be hundreds of overworked police officers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the downtown borders barricaded to keep people out like they were in 2020.
Violence-plagued communities long ignored
Meanwhile, on the south and west sides of Chicago (where the median home income ranges between $20k to $35k), residents have been haunted by that same fear for generations.
Also this week, a three year old child was caught and shot in 60 rounds of gunfire on the Southside of the city and there’s not been a peep from elected officials.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke about the difficult task of dealing with years of unaddressed violence in certain Chicago neighborhoods. She said, “They have lived with the lack of investment. They have lived the lack of focus and attention on violence for way too long.”
Excuse my French but, no shit. I’ve always said it doesn’t take rocket science to curb these societal ills, just intentional investment. So if elected officials know lack of investment is a significant issue then why aren’t they putting more resources and opportunities into low-income, high-crime communities?
And finally, had everyone “loved thy neighbor” in the first place and been concerned and proactive in curbing public safety and health dilemmas regardless of personal proximity, maybe we’d all have a better quality of life in Chicago. But, here we are in a “state of emergency” because it’s now been proven that none of us are safe.
Our cities are just like our bodies. If we fail to address one ailment, eventually it can spread and affect the functionality of other limbs, organs, etc.
So when it comes to being proactive and reactive to public health crises, there can’t be bias or neglect because those crises will indeed grow. And while I wouldn’t wish violence and crime on any community, maybe the bursting of privileged bubbles is what it’ll take to finally desegregate humanity.