I was born and raised in Chicago.
Born at the now defunct, and as I drove by just this last week, now demolished Michael Reese Hospital. I started kindergarten in 1989 here in Chicago, the first year of School Reform where Chicago Public Schools still had a superintendent and the establishment of the Local School Council was implemented who help put the leadership of schools back in the hands of parents, teachers and community representatives. I matriculated at an insulated magnet school on the South Side in the Chatham neighborhood of Chicago with only one class per grade, and all of the teachers knew all of the parents and had home phone numbers, and the principal knew each student by name. I finished up at another relatively insulated school here in Hyde Park and did my high school years at Lincoln Park High School in double honors classes.
I survived Chicago Public Schools with no scratches or scars.
I never saw a gun my whole time I was there; I never really saw gang activity; I never got beat up; I never saw drug sales going on and I certainly didn’t bury any of my friends do to violence.
So I couldn’t believe the news stories that I was hearing the past two, even three years. Apparently Chicago was losing about a classroom size of young persons per year. I asked myself initially had things really gotten that bad?
I remember as a kid driving through the South Side and the images of Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens lining State Street, or driving down Cottage Grove and seeing Darrow Homes which were being torn down in my youth, and seeing Madden Park Homes and Ida B. Wells full of people, and just remembering how dangerous a place it had gotten to be in Chicago in the early 1990s.
Chicagoans still recall with chilling memory the news stories about child deaths. If I began a roll call, names and memories would begin to flood their minds as they remember the sensations of fear, terror, anger and sheer sadness that enveloped the city as they mourned the death of such innocence. The scary thing was that more often than not, not only was this violence committed on youth, but that the youth were committing the violence!
Chicago boasted a homicide number of 943 in 1992 and a murder rate of 29 per 100,000 residents. That was the top. And this was even after the Chicago Police Department had begun a new ledger line under “cause of death” that read drive-by shooting. One can look at crime statistics and easily say that something had happened in America in the late 1980s that spilled over into the years 1990, 1991 and 1992. Crime rates were through the roof and many large cities were reporting murder rates over 700.
Art imitated life when black America saw the rise of the gangster movies such as “Boyz in the Hood,” “Menace II Society,” “Juice,” “Jason’s Lyrics,” and “New Jack City” just to name a few. “New Jack City” firmly places the blame on crack/cocaine entering already struggling black communities in the early to mid 1980s merely exacerbating to the utmost a festering issue of systemic problems birthed out of a society that had no problems keeping blacks as a permanent underclass. This was a problem playing itself out in all major cities, from the north to the south and even on the West Coast.
Then crime numbers dropped.
New York instituted its strict policing tactics and new laws that began putting offenders away for minor offenses. And other cities, Chicago included saw their numbers decrease.
So why was CNN doing a big special on Chicago Public School students getting killed?
Anderson Cooper was allowed to do a whole special that dominated the airwaves this past fall with T.J. Holmes and even still the mainstream media has made sure that “Chicago violence” has made it into the national news cycle. I can’t help but wonder why?
Probably everyday in a major city there’s some horrific crime that should make it into the news, but we don’t hear about it. I’m sure New Orleanians still remember back in 2003 when a young man walked into a school auditorium at John MacDonough high school and killed one of his classmates on some gang crap, but that didn’t make national news. And was it not a school shooting? We remember Paducah, Kentucky with Michael Carneal, Jonesboro, Arkansas with Andrew Golden, there was an incident in Oregon as well, but look at what received national attention. It would make sense because, of course, in the black community school shootings are a bit more, common, shall we say….
So again, the question is why did CNN choose to make national news out of a situation that in the grand scheme of things wasn’t all that abnormal, or in fact was improving. Seriously, if one wanted to do an expose on crime or some horrible action, there are plenty of other cities to pick that are fairing worse than Chicago. Detroit and Baltimore separately have a murder rate tripled that of Chicago. Yes, I said TRIPLE. And even compared to some other cities Chicago is on the low end. Or even somewhere like New Orleans where the murder rate per 100,000 people is off the charts compared to the national average.
Are there not other cities that are in much more dire circumstances than that of Chicago? What made Chicago the focal point of all current angst about violence in urban centers? The place where our current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used to be former CEO of Chicago Public Schools after the love affair between Daley and Paul Vallas ended. Or where our seemingly crooked current CPD Police Chief Jodie Weiss currently gets national press coverage. Seriously? What could warrant a special on violence in Chicago, but other cities like Detroit are still reeling, the violence in New Orleans is still spinning out of control, or even an expose on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington, DC is of tantamount concern. What’s so special about Chicago?
One word: Obama.
I personally think it’s one of those innocuous occurrences that just metastasizes without anyone noticing; almost a case of benign neglect. Specifically with the Jeremiah Wright affair and Obama’s campaign season, FoxNews and their political pundits of pusillanimous prognostication made sure to throw out the word “Chicago politics” as a negative moniker that got deep-seated in the American psyche. So no longer do we think of the corruption of “DC politics” or “New Orleans politics” or “Atlanta politics” or “New York politics” or any other city or state as just as equally corrupt, but now Chicago. And why not, Chicago is known as a Democratic town run by the Daley Machine, only interrupted by the Byrne and Washington years combined, ending swiftly with Washington’s death and even his replacement coming from the Daley camp. So it’s yet another tactic of smearing Democrats and ultimately tarnishing the name of Obama.
I think this is more intentional than people want to give credit for. Yes, I was rocked by the death of Blair Holt, a 16-year-old shot on a CTA bus coming home from school and shielding another classmate. And the nation watched as kids were more eager to pull out a cell phone to take images of a child getting beaten to death rather than dial 911 with Derrion Albert’s death. But still, this provides a backdrop for the city that Obama hails from.
But in hindsight, I think Obama is a responsible in shaping this world view of not just his hometown, but inner city youth as a whole and how America views race. Not that Obama failed these kids or is even linked to the violence of Chicago, but it paints a backdrop that history will somehow revise and paint a less than true image.
Think I’m lying.
For many the spazzlewhorfs  of “real America” that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck go ad nauseum about, their limited world view in true reality, especially if they’re rural Americans, exists of trips to the hair care place, the payday loan venture and then to “the” WalMart. This results in their image of Chicago as a some hotbed of terrorists a la Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, full of bad businessmen like Tony Rezko and full of black teens who are just miscreants who need to be locked up.
Honestly, I’d be more than interested to see what history books have to say about Chicago as it related to Barack Obama and his background. I’m really not convinced that this is just mere coincidence, nor am I convinced that this is the intentional aim of news media outlets (except a FoxNews). I think this speaks more to the spirit of the time in which we live that depends on the uncritical masses to sit back idly and watch this stuff with no questions.
Truly, this is a sad day for America.
Have you noticed all of this news about Chicago violence? Do you think it has to do with Obama or am I making a big stretch here.
 Yes, I made up the word “spazzlewhorfs”
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL