Over the last few days, I've been asked by many people: "Why aren't you writing about the downtown 'flash-mobs'? There's so much to say about race."
I've been thinking about the situation a lot. Pondering it. Wondering what's going on to make these crimes that are so very ordinary just a few miles away from the Loop finally happen there.
The truth is, I don't have much to say. I could go on and on about how this sort of criminal activity happens all the time, and why doesn't the media cover it? But that's too naive. I know perfectly well why they don't.
But the incidents have made me think of a conversation I had a couple years back--a conversation that gives me goosebumps when I think of it now.
The only thing significant I can think to contribute is this: a
conversation I had with Lynn Toddman, a professor at the Adler School of
Psychology. Toddman is the head of the Institute on Social Exclusion and
studies why some people are constantly left on the margins of society.
We were talking about the Olympics, back when 2016 in Chicago was still a
possibility. We were talking about how the games would create a scenario
where Chicago was even more divided between the haves and have-nots.
And those distinctions would become brighter and clearer as a billion
dollar stadium steamrolled poor people's homes and they were asked to
I asked her, "Why does that matter? Why should the rich people care?"
Her answer gave me a bit of a chill. I don't still have the notes from the interview, so I'll have to paraphrase what she said.
Lynn said that the problem was that one day, the have-nots will realize
they have nothing to gain from the sparkling Magnificent Mile--that it
doesn't benefit them one red cent. And when they have nothing to gain,
they'll also have nothing to lose by destroying it.
That's the problem with intense racial and economic segregation. We need
a society where everyone cares if our main economic powerhouse is
damaged--where enough of the population everywhere in the city benefits
from it enough to want to preserve it.
What I see in these downtown attacks is the recognition that it doesn't
matter. That these young men are going to be arrested and put away for
life in their own community, so why not spread the crime around a
little? They see their destiny as inevitable, and to be honest, it's
hard to argue.
When a large portion of society has no interest in maintaining the
status quo, they'll as soon as destroy it as anything else. I don't say
this to forgive or excuse their crime. Just to say that from a certain
perspective, it makes sense.