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42 Responses

  1. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    It is strictly against the rules to make me cry at work.

    Thank you for the recommendation and sharing your story.

  2. Chally
    Chally August 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm |

    I don’t know what to say, Captain, but thank you for writing this.

  3. catfood
    catfood August 30, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Adding to the cycle: The guy who gets involved in crime, gets caught, and does some time when young… becomes unemployable and remains so. So even if jobs do come around someday, they’re not for him. And it never gets better.

  4. April
    April August 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Yes, thank you for writing this. Very powerful piece, and also, it made me think of what’s happened in my old neighborhood in Minneapolis since I moved last year. Your mention of how there is this thought that there are “two cities,” with the hip places you go and the other side you avoid, was, and still is, quite true in Minneapolis, as well.

  5. Travis
    Travis August 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    Damn, Jennifer. I will definitely see this.

  6. Gretel
    Gretel August 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    Well, damn. I need to see this sooner than today.

    Thank you for sharing your story, as hard as that may have been.

  7. Steve James
    Steve James August 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm |

    Thank you so much for this essay and deeply personal reflection on the violence. This is the most moving thing I’ve seen written about the film and really hits home with the message that this is a social ill that we all need to care about.

  8. William
    William August 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm |

    I considered going Anon for this one but…it somehow feels false to not let myself be accountable about these things.

    I’ve spent my entire life in Chicago. I grew up in a neighborhood with a strong Outlaw presence, I’ve been mugged, I’ve been harassed by our unusually repugnant police force, I worked at Roberto Clemente, I live in West Rogers Park not more than two blocks from where I bought drugs in high school. This post is tough for me because, while I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, I have a lot of trouble feeling anything about the death of a man like Aaron Carter. I know that poverty and the lack of gainful working class employment is at the root of the gang problem in Chicago, as much of a beef as I have with Ceasefire’s other policies and programs I know that their violence interrupters do incredible work, but I still cannot manage to muster empathy around Carter’s death.

    Right now I live at the border between GD and 4CH territory and yet, its had relatively little influence on my life. Sometimes I’m a little uncomfortable walking around at night, but that has more to do with the implicit racism thats part of growing up white in Chicago than it does with any real threat. The reality is that I’m white, I’m middle class, I’m male, and so I’m off limits. People don’t even try to sell to me. There is an unspoken understanding that you don’t fuck with the yuppies because that gets the cops and the Alderman involved and because we’re not involved. I live just down the block and yet its as if I’m in a different nation.

    The other side of that is that poor, black residents are fair game. Thats not just because the police don’t really care, but also because there are men like Carter who are willing to take advantage while the cops are busy generating revenue by writing street cleaning tickets. One requires the other. Sure, Carter’s death had effects on a lot of other lives, but…I’m hesitant to cry for him. His community, absolutely, but not for him.

  9. m
    m August 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    Actually saw it in SLC at Sundance, as a Chicago resident, found it extremely moving.

    Thanks very much for sharing your story, I think it adds another excellent layer to the story the film tells.

  10. suspect class
    suspect class August 31, 2011 at 12:51 am |

    Captain Awkward, thank you for your post. I’m a Chicagoan away from home for the last few years, weighing whether or not to come home, and this served as an unexpected reminder of what continues to happen in my city, year after year. I have many memories of this part of Uptown; suffice to say, this hit home on a number of levels. Not to mention my memory of watching hoop dreams as a kid and being struck with the realization that there are at least two, if not several, Chicagos.

  11. Sadly Cynical
    Sadly Cynical August 31, 2011 at 8:44 am |

    What enrages me is that some largish proportion of the population is absolutely okay with the inner city problem. They take great moral pride and satisfaction in those few random programs that will find the occasional “good” urban kid and get him out of there to be shipped off to the ivy league, but they will argue against any other kind of social program or assistance or urban development initiative that favors these populations. Apparently, everyone else in the inner city deserves what they get, and killing each other off isn’t a problem, it’s part of the solution.

    As long as the violence and decay stays away from nice white people, that is.

    It’s a horrible conclusion to draw, but I can’t see how else to explain the way we (don’t) handle the urban problem and the manner in which many of the wealthy, privileged, and other “hard-working red-blooded taxpaying Americans” discuss the problems of the inner city and its residents.

  12. almos men who looke like you (white, middle-class, man). Thank you for detailing so clearly why i i Ifeel more threatened by men like you than men like Aaron Carter.

    William, thank you describing so clearly why I feel threatened by the presence of white men. Your refusal to feel empathy is terrifying.

  13. maruja de lujo
    maruja de lujo August 31, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    I … watched my neighbors basically have a KKK meeting in the comments.

    To compare your neighbours’ comments to a Klu Klux Klan meeting is to trivialize the murders and other obscene intimidation tactics carried out by the Klu Klux Klan.

  14. BHuesca
    BHuesca August 31, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    I was in grad school at the University of Chicago, beginning fall of 2008. When my mom moved me into my new apartment, they gave us both rape whistles before they even gave me my keys. The University held orientations where they told us how very very lucky we were that there was extra security due to the upcoming presidential election and the proximity to the Obama residence on 51st and the fact that the Obama children went to the private Lab School on 59th. They told us we could go, cautiously, between 53rd and 59th and MAYBE across the Midway but only if we were in law school or the school of social work- and between Stony Ridge and Cottage Rd (I think- the names are a distant memory now) and they kept telling us the blue light phones were on every corner and so were the cops and we couldn’t, just couldn’t, go outside of that area, unless we took the red line IN A GROUP and went to the downtown, Michigan avenue type area. One of my roommates (in the school of social work, in case you couldn’t guess) asked why: wasn’t that pretty darn discriminatory?

    And here was the university’s response: we can’t protect everyone, the university police force wasn’t meant to cover the entire city – just the campus, so we’re trying to do triage here, because the neighborhood (Hyde Park) is bleeding.

    And I remembered that every time I heard about an elementary kid getting shot in the crossfire coming home from school, a gang fight on 64th, getting gas around 49th St and noticing that everyone but me was armed, noticing that most gunshot victims weren’t even identified by name in the newspaper because they were minors, anything – I’m ashamed to say that there were so many shootings and so many deaths, I let them blur in my mind. I just kept remembering the little rectangle that the university said would be safe for us, and quite frankly, I pretty much stayed in it. And I remembered the triage metaphor, and how “lucky” we were to have the black helicopters and the random searches that were national security on campus, and I … I don’t know what I could have done, what I was supposed to do, but I still feel guilty that I could just graduate and got out.

    Thank you, Captain Awkward. I really appreciate your post.

  15. Anonymouse
    Anonymouse August 31, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    To compare your neighbours’ comments to a Klu Klux Klan meeting is to trivialize the murders and other obscene intimidation tactics carried out by the Klu Klux Klan.

    To claim that you’re “starving” before eating a meal is to trivialize the people around the world who suffer from malnutrition.

    Or, y’know, we could just not be the metaphor police and not take things literally.

  16. Elaine
    Elaine August 31, 2011 at 12:54 pm |

    A very real footnote as to why the cycle of violence needs to be stopped, whether by the interrupters of CeaseFire or someone else:

    You saw two men get shot last summer. One, Aaron Carter, died. The other, Brayant Rodgers, survived, but murdered someone from a rival gang in January, right in front of an undercover policeman, just a block from where he himself was shot. That’s what he learned from his near-death experience: Pay it forward. This never-ending escalation must be interrupted.

  17. William
    William August 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    William, thank you describing so clearly why I feel threatened by the presence of white men. Your refusal to feel empathy is terrifying.

    First, it isn’t a refusal. I’m not witholding empathy, the truth is that I just don’t feel it for people like Aaron Carter. Its something I’m especially aware of because I’m an extremely empathic person. It is rare that I cannot share in someone’s feelings.

    The problem for me, ultimately, is that Carter isn’t one of the many innocent victims of the violence men like him commit while the police turn a blind eye. He is a victim of a city that didn’t give him options but, to be blunt, the vast majority of people like him don’t choose to prey on their neighbors. They get by, they struggle, they fail and they succeed and they live and the hurt and they don’t make the simple choice to take the hurt they feel and balm it a little by taking from their communities. Most of the poor (and disproportionately of color) people who live in neighborhoods with reputations as dangerous are decent people living difficult lives with limited resources. But every community has it’s predators. The difference between Aaron Carter and Jon Burge is, to me, one of circumstance rather than substance.

    Its tough for me to share his feelings, to feel as he does, because I’ve been there. I’ve had the chance to make that choice, I’ve been at that dark place where you think to yourself and say “maybe I should just take what I want, god knows no one would stop me.” I’ve been in a place where I had to do things I shouldn’t have in order to keep living, where people got hurt because someone was going to and it wasn’t going to be me. The difference, though, is that while many of us end up in that bad place there is still always a choice. Do you embrace the worst in yourself or do you resist it?

    I’m not proud that I do not feel for Aaron Carter, but I don’t feel it would be honest to lie or stay silent, either. I feel like the truth is important, even when it is ugly.

  18. Rodeo
    Rodeo August 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    (Sorry for the total screw-up on that comment. I’m posting from my phone so I guess something went wrong. Hopefully it’s fixed.)

    William, when your response to a story about the murder of a 21 year old kid that was the intended result after de-funding every available program to provide assistance to people who aren’t lily-white middle-class denizens of non-stop good decision-making is “eh, he probably snatch a few purses in his day, I don’t care,” well, that says more about you than his decisions say about him. Especially given that as a white man, the only way you can possibly understand what structural racism and sexism does to a person’s self-image, decision-making processes, and even their physiological capacity to process emotions is through developing an extremely strong sense of empathy.

    I’m terrified of you, and I pity you. I hope you are one day able to feel.

  19. Guest post! “I would like to be GGG for my new chap, but we’re taking it reallllllllllly slow.” (Question #105) « CaptainAwkward.com

    […] still posting at Feministe this week, most recently about how The Interrupters allowed me to finally process and write about some of the violent incidents I w….  The filmmaker is a personal hero of mine, so when he stopped by to comment I had a little […]

  20. Cherry Soda
    Cherry Soda September 1, 2011 at 1:41 am |

    @Bhuesca, “I don’t know what I could have done, what I was supposed to do, but I still feel guilty that I could just graduate and got out.”

    Why do you feel guilty? Did you do something wrong?

  21. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 1, 2011 at 9:09 am |

    @cherrysoda-

    No, it’s more that the U of C so strongly emphasized that university police were there to protect the university and university lab school students- and that they really meant protect them FROM the larger Hyde Park/Chicago community (read: Black) – and…I just accepted that as it was presented to me…it just seems a little wrong to me, now. That’s all.

  22. William
    William September 1, 2011 at 9:34 am |

    Especially given that as a white man, the only way you can possibly understand what structural racism and sexism does to a person’s self-image, decision-making processes, and even their physiological capacity to process emotions is through developing an extremely strong sense of empathy.

    Trigger warning for child abuse.

    Yes, because being a survivor of rape, of physical abuse, of the incredible structural discrimination and sometimes outright violence I faced as a child with serious disabilities in the city of Chicago I know nothing of oppression. My lilly whiteness has left me blinded, and clearly a distant last in the oppression olympics, to be silent or scraping if I’ve any hope of redemption. Growing up with close relationships with men and women of color, being pulled over as a young child riding in a car and asked by a cop if “this nigger” had “kidnapped” me because someone I’d known all my life picked me up from school, repeating that dance over and over first with people I knew as “auntie” or “uncle” and then with friends, did little to crack my inability to feel for anyone of color as evidenced by the fact that I do not feel for Aaron Carter.

    But of course, I couldn’t “possibly understand” what those things meant, now, could I? I’m too white and too male to have cried with my patients, too broken by the unvarnished privilege to be anything other than what you fantasize me to be. Because, you know, we’re all the same, right?

    You want to talk about isms? You want to talk about terror? You want to talk about what those kinds of things do self image, decision making, and physical ability to process emotions? I could talk about being locked in a room with no light the stunk of someone else’s piss and blood and vomit, a room where I could touch all four walls at the same time even as a small child, being locked in for 8 hours because I was a “dangerous retard.” I could tell you about how people who knew of my sexual assault threatened me with rape in order to try to make me be a “good boy” and then, when they thought I was out of earshot, make a joke about me liking it because boys who get raped as children become faggots. I could talk about what that triggered in me as an adolescent who mostly liked girls but sometimes didn’t.

    But lets talk about terror. After a life of being preyed upon I still remember when I decided how I was going to respond to my terror. It was a line a 9 year old shouldn’t be able to comprehend. Sitting in a pitch black room with a bruise forming on a rib from a kick that a man gave a boy because he could and no one would believe a “crazy retard,” two of my limbs still numb from the “calm position,” out of tears and out of hope. A 9 year old boy dealing with an adult problem and deciding that they wouldn’t be easy prey, that they wouldn’t submit, that they wouldn’t bare their throat and hope that people who casually hurt others will hurt him a little less because he didn’t resist.

    As I got older, as puberty hit, as I went from a scrawny 9 year old to a man capable of inflicting real hurt I had to figure out who I was. I had to learn how I would respond to terror. The fear in me, despite a lack of violence, scared people because I had learned how to scare people out of hurting me. That mask became a part of me, something I couldn’t take down. And after awhile, it began to feel like me. And after a long while I came back from the edge of that bad place.

    I still live in terror. Sometimes I forget that I’m 6’1″, 270 pounds, that I look like trouble. I feel like that little boy, 9 years old and rail thin from the ritalin he didn’t need and trying so hard not to be a target. I flinch if people get too close to me on the subway, I clench and prepare to be hurt by people who do not even know I’m there. And, slowly, I come back from it. Its better now than it was 20 years ago. But the terror is still there because of men like Aaron Carter. And I know that he came from hurt, I know that he wasn’t born bad, I know that circumstances lead him to be who he became. But I also know, from experience, that at some point in his life he looked at another human being and said “whose going to stop me?” and didn’t manage to stop himself. At some point he crossed from victim to perpetrator. He went from the terrorized to the terror.

    I wish there were the resources available to bring him back from that. Hell, I’ve been the resources. But I do not mourn his loss. I can’t anymore than I could cry when the man who raped me was mugged and beaten so badly that he had brain damage. Empathy requires contact and I did not have contact with Carter. To really feel for someone else requires that you know them and I did not know him. For me, in my life, in my realm of experience, he’s just another abuser who died. I want there to be resources in place to stop his child from falling into that trap, I want organizations like CeaseFire to step in and break the cycle, I want jobs and industry and social supports to give people options

  23. William
    William September 1, 2011 at 9:39 am |

    Aim for shift, hit something else. Damned CP? Anyway…

    I want there to be resources in place to stop his child from falling into that trap, I want organizations like CeaseFire to step in and break the cycle, I want jobs and industry and social supports to give people options so that they aren’t so badly hurt that and so utterly powerless that becoming what hurt them is all they have left. But at some point we also need to admit that, even though circumstances drove the Aaron Carters of the world to their deaths, they are still culpable for their actions.

    For me, personally, I have trouble feeling for him because I have trouble feeling for abusers. Maybe thats imperfect.

  24. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    William,

    Get this straight: YOU ARE A WHITE MAN. No one is denying what you went through, but you didn’t go through them as a Black person. And this:

    Growing up with close relationships with men and women of color, being pulled over as a young child riding in a car and asked by a cop if “this nigger” had “kidnapped” me because someone I’d known all my life picked me up from school, repeating that dance over and over first with people I knew as “auntie” or “uncle”…

    Wasn’t about you. WILL NEVER BE ABOUT YOU. Again, no one is denying what you went though but you DO NOT know what it’s like to be oppressed AS A BLACK PERSON. Stop pretending that you. Your White privilege is showing.

  25. Rodeo
    Rodeo September 1, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    William, I have similar experiences of child/teenaged/adult abuse that could spin your head as well. We all do. See a therapist if you’re still struggling.

    To err is human, to forgive divine. And I’m not talking about bullshit “say you’re sorry/now say it’s okay” type of forgiveness, I’m talking about recognizing how that kernel of hatred and anger inside your gut that forces you to suppress your ability to feel anything and instead remain apathetic after hearing Capt. Awkward describe how the murder of a 21 year old victim of oppression changed her life, how it basically prevents you from moving beyond your childhood, and saying you don’t need it anymore.

    You can let other people’s violence destroy your ability to feel compassion/sympathy/empathy for victims of institutional racism/sexism, or you can choose divinity. Hell, I don’t blame anyone for preferring the easy route, we all have limited energy, but that doesn’t make you any less scary or pitiful to me. Apathy, the inability to recognize another human being’s life as worthy of preservation, enables violence.

  26. Jadey
    Jadey September 1, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Can we not delve into policing people’s emotions? It may make me sad to hear that someone doesn’t empathize with someone else because I’m kind of like that and on some level want everyone to empathize with everyone, but I still get skeeved out by suggestions of “You must feel this now or else you are a bad person!!!” Emotions don’t work that way. Especially something as deep and personal as empathy – if I felt everyone’s pain as deeply as they deserved, I would be an empty shell of a person in no time. I mean, talk about factors in activist burn-out. William can still oppose institutional oppression without emphathizing for a particular individual – lack of empathy does not mean overall apathy to the injustice of a situation. And reading his comments, I don’t personally see where he was using his reaction as a way of undermining the legitimacy of anyone else’s – I read it as him sharing his honest feelings, which I think are realistic even if they make me sad. I am very strongly reminded of a very amazing thread that happened on Feministe once where we talked honestly about our feelings toward people who have committed sexual assault, and people (including survivors) were able to express their anger and fear as well as their desire for a better justice system without trampling on how other people with similar stakes in the issue felt.

    I won’t argue that his White privilege isn’t showing with other aspects of his comments. I just hate seeing us go down the road of policing each other’s feelings and making activism and solidarity dependent on a particular emotional response that for very many reasons people might be incapable of mustering at a given moment.

  27. Jadey
    Jadey September 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    To not hide behind my own white privilege, I do need to say that I am aware that discussing a lack of empathy in a racialized context (which was not explicitly present in the sexual assault thread) has the baggage of the fact that as a society, we tend to regard people of colour with less empathy because of racism (as demonstrated by some of the neighbours’ comments shared by the OP), and no intentions are enough to negate that context. My objection is only to the idea that we have to empathize or else we are part of the problem and that a lack of empathy for a specific individual constitutes support for oppressive institutions, because I think demanding an emotional reaction of that nature from people is too problematic in and of itself and that while it can be helpful it isn’t always necessary for activism.

  28. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    After reading Jadey’s posts, I feel I need to make a clarification: Now that understand where William’s feelings come from in regards to the abuse he suffered, I better understand where his lack of empathy comes from and I respect that. However, I still believe that he is showing his White privilege with the comment I quoted earlier.

  29. Cherry Soda
    Cherry Soda September 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    “BHuesca 9.1.2011 at 9:09 am
    @cherrysoda-

    No, it’s more that the U of C so strongly emphasized that university police were there to protect the university and university lab school students- and that they really meant protect them FROM the larger Hyde Park/Chicago community (read: Black) – and…I just accepted that as it was presented to me…it just seems a little wrong to me, now. That’s all.”

    It wasn’t wrong. University police are hired by universities to protect the students and staff on campus, they are not getting paid to infiltrate the entire neighborhood.

    The rest of the neighborhood may indeed have been Black BUT if it was not a very high crime area then there would not need to be such a strong University police force, would there?

    Hence it had nothing to do with “protecting you from Black people” – it was about protecting you from a high crime area.

    And I’m sure many of the University police men and women were Black themselves.

  30. Jadey
    Jadey September 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Ugh, I also want to apologize for my terrible grammar and style in the previous comments – commenting on the go is never a good idea.

  31. BHuesca
    BHuesca September 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm |

    @Angel H. – I of course cannot speak for William, nor would or could I try. But I do note that, as a frequent commenter here, he has mentioned his race a time or two.

    With that said- I don’t think being White means he, or anyone else, cannot/shouldnt have opinions/views/extra info/relevant info on a situation, and I don’t think that one’s race means that one cannot/should not (after acknowledging privilege, likely?) have further comment on any situation relevant to the post within the confines of the moderator’s guidelines.

    But this is just my opinion, don’cha know.

  32. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 1, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    BHuesca: With that said- I don’t think being White means he, or anyone else, cannot/shouldnt have opinions/views/extra info/relevant info on a situation, and I don’t think that one’s race means that one cannot/should not (after acknowledging privilege, likely?) have further comment on any situation relevant to the post within the confines of the moderator’s guidelines.

    I don’t think so either, and that’s not what I said. My issue was that when Rodeo said this:

    Especially given that as a white man, the only way you can possibly understand what structural racism and sexism does to a person’s self-image, decision-making processes, and even their physiological capacity to process emotions is through developing an extremely strong sense of empathy.

    William said this:

    Yes, because being a survivor of rape, of physical abuse, of the incredible structural discrimination and sometimes outright violence I faced as a child with serious disabilities in the city of Chicago I know nothing of oppression. My lilly whiteness has left me blinded, and clearly a distant last in the oppression olympics, to be silent or scraping if I’ve any hope of redemption. Growing up with close relationships with men and women of color, being pulled over as a young child riding in a car and asked by a cop if “this nigger” had “kidnapped” me because someone I’d known all my life picked me up from school, repeating that dance over and over first with people I knew as “auntie” or “uncle” and then with friends, did little to crack my inability to feel for anyone of color as evidenced by the fact that I do not feel for Aaron Carter.

    But of course, I couldn’t “possibly understand” what those things meant, now, could I? I’m too white and too male to have cried with my patients, too broken by the unvarnished privilege to be anything other than what you fantasize me to be.

    That is what I took issue with. I’m not denying the oppression he endured, but it is not the same as being oppressed because of your race.

  33. LC
    LC September 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    I want to support what Janey said about policing people’s empathy.

  34. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    I also want to support what Jadey said about the policing of emotion, and will add that “choosing divinity” is one of the more fucked-up guilt trips laid at the feet of survivors. I’m a survivor of domestic violence, and I wish I had a dollar for every time some holier-than-thou person told me that by refusing to “forgive” by abuser, that I’m just as bad as he is and just as responsible for perpetuating the cycle of violence. Bullshit.

    Folks, this is a violent society, and one of the ways that manifests is that people are uncomfortable around survivors *as survivors*; are more comfortable around perpetrators of violence because that upholds the status quo–the existing ranking. I mean, one of the reasons it’s damn-near-worthless to call the cops in my neighborhood is because they have a greater respect for the criminals than for their victims. Violence is seen as *active*, proactive, strong…dare I say, *masculinized*. Whereas to be the victim of that violence is to be seen as weak, passive, *feminized*. And what are feminized people supposed to do? Be “divine”. Forgive. Let it go. They certainly aren’t supposed to take a stand, draw a line, and say never again.

    Why the hell is it up to survivors to do the emotional work of society? Why are we supposed to retain our compassion under (sometimes extraordinary) duress, when society at large is just as content to not have any of their own—to pretend that the violence of the streets isn’t a reflection of the greater violence of abandoned communities, hungry children, inadequate housing, environmental destruction, the dehumanization of everyday racism? Why is violence only named as such when it is visited by one individual upon another? Particularly when that violence is taking place by and on individuals who’ve been considered as throwaways?

  35. Rodeo
    Rodeo September 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm |

    William can still oppose institutional oppression without emphathizing for a particular individual – lack of empathy does not mean overall apathy to the injustice of a situation.

    Good point.

  36. Liz L
    Liz L September 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    Interesting that UofC popped up in the conversation so quickly- they don’t call Hyde Park the bubble for nothing. Talk about a place fraught with a century of messed up race relations but also brimming with all kinds of possiblity…

    But I think that Hyde Park is interesting because as a “break” in the city’s still-rigid color/class lines, it sets up a series of interactions between people who have been abandoned by the city and people whom the city values very much. Well-off students/faculty from a variety of backgrounds watch and sometimes brush up against the intense street violence of the surrounding communities from within that safe “bubble” described above. Danielle Allen has a great letter to the university at the end of her book Talking to Strangers where she takes Plato’s definition of the polis to redraw the map to create a broader community that would include Hyde Park and Kenwood with Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Washington Park, and parts of Englewood and the Pocket. What would the south side look like if the university had taken a broad-minded view of who constituted their community rather than burning “undesirable” properties out of existance to create an artificial boat in which to ride out the demographic changes that so altered the fabric of the city…?

    Another thing to be uber-conscious of in terms of Chicago in particular is the social-science lab-artificiality that sharply limited where Chicagoans, especially poor Chicagoans, could afford to rent (much less buy). From covenants and very deliberate neighborhood association-driven violence/intimidation to the Daley infrastructure projects that “saved”/isolated white ethnic neighborhoods from majority black neighborhoods to the construction of the high-rise project and then the “plan for transformation” destruction of these communities with no realistic plan to recreate the necessary housing stock to keep poor families in the city… None of this is natural, all of it is driven by the choices we made as citizens, voters, members of the community. Which complicity you would then think would tie us all together in addressing the crazy-complex city we inherited, no? But time and again, you see affluent (mostly but not all white) Chicagoans choosing to live apart, in bubbles of various sizes. Physical bubbles, but also bubbles in which access to resources, capital, and culture are hoarded at the expense of the entire fabric of the city.

  37. Jon Trott
    Jon Trott September 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    I’ve lived in Uptown Chicago, where Aron Carter was shot, for 35 years. I’ve been involved in what one has to call a class struggle here for most of that time, esp. since the mid 1980s when gentrifiers targeted the area.

    Cease Fire is a great organization. They are not going to solve this mess — no one organization or “solution” will do that. But I’ve marched with them and will do so again. They are good people.

    The “KKK-type” comments on the website in question got even worse than those listed here. I won’t say more there, as it makes me too upset to be kind, other than to note that it indeed is not overkill to think of the KKK when reading some of them.

    We’re all involved in a balancing act here. Everyone has to take responsibility. Yes, gang bangers will reap what they sow. But so will we. If we create simplistic narratives to avoid any social responsibility in the face of poverty’s impact on families, we *will* reap the consequences. The current Tea Party response to social stresses is sowing a bad, bad crop and all of us will reap a bitter harvest. Or, we can work and suffer with and for one another to try and ameleorate some of the forces at work against those most at risk to join gangs. Yes, hold them accountable if they do… but remember they could just as well be our children. And we might easily have been their parents.

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