As the entire country now knows, both the amount of gun violence and the murder rate in inner city Chicago has now reached epidemic proportions. Just recently, as many as thirty people died in a single week due to the assaults on each other by young African-American gang members in neighborhoods such as West Englewood or North Lawndale. Now even Spike Lee has come to Chicago to deal with the subject in his new film Chi-raq. And as anybody who lives in Chicago, or really anyone who regularly watches the news on cable television already knows, this troubling situation has been ongoing for years now, with no end in sight.
In discussing the situation, the usual litany of causes are brought to light and seemingly carefully examined; from more gun control to greater parental involvement in communities to better schools to economic investment in impoverished areas of the city. Yet the same story of urban gang violence continues no matter how many times the aforementioned issues are discussed. So perhaps there is something else that needs to be considered relative to the issue; this being a potential correlation between the amount of segregation taking place in the entirety of a city like Chicago and the amount of gun violence that takes place in its racially isolated, urban areas.
In addition, it would seem to be no accident that the two cities with the greatest number of murders taking place this year – Chicago and Baltimore – are deeply segregated cities; with many neighborhoods in Chicago being nearly 100% minority communities, and with schools in many of those neighborhoods being likewise 100% minority. So perhaps if one wants to address the amount of gun violence taking place here in Chicago, it is going to be necessary to go much deeper than just stricter gun control laws, better schools, greater parental involvement, or even urban redevelopment in racially isolated, impoverished areas. Perhaps it is going to take a long term process of desegregating Chicago in its entirety.
This would mean such things as the city building state of the art, visionary schools commensurate with our current information age right in the heart of the city’s more segregated communities; consideration of laws that require representation in both the city council and on the Chicago school board to be proportional with various ethnic populations; creating beautiful facilities like Millennium Park not just in Grant Park along the lakefront but in the heart of racially isolated minority communities such as Englewood, North Lawndale, Austin, or Back of the Yards; or even taking on the contentious issue of local control in allowing students from all neighborhoods throughout the city an opportunity to attend school in those state of the art schools which tend to exist only in wealthier white communities.
Needless to say, the above issues are going to bring about a definite amount of resistance, to say the least, simply because they are going to effect the lives of wealthier people who are now able to keep the repercussions of inner city gang violence at arm’s length, which may very well be a significant reason for the problem. Yet there might be no other way to begin addressing the amount of inner city violence and murder that occurs in a place like Chicago than for all the citizens of the city to become involved in solving the problem. Stricter gun control laws, greater community involvement, better schools in impoverished areas, or better policing procedures in racially isolated areas are just in the long run going to push these various issues back in upon themselves unless there is a greater effort by city governments, like the one here in Chicago, to begin desegregating the city as a whole.
When one peruses the list of American cities with high murder rates or with high rates of gun violence, proportional to the number of citizens who live in them, one name is invariably missing from these lists. That is the city of Atlanta. As anyone who has ever traveled to Atlanta quickly discovers, the city is integrated in ways in which places like Chicago, Baltimore, or even New York City can’t compare. Yes, there may be other factors involved here, but the fact that this highly integrated southern city is never anywhere near the top of a list of cities manifesting significantly high murder rates or a significant amount of gun violence is very likely no sort of coincidence.