One eerie thought about Magnificent Mile gang violence

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
move elsewhere.

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.

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  • Hey jfx - Actually, awhile ago, I looked into the Gini coefficient when we were doing a comparison of Chicago and Egypt. As you probably know, the score is from 0 to 100, with 0 being perfect equality and 100 being perfect inequality.

    Egypt's Gini index, the last time it was measured in 2001, was 34.4.

    And the United States? Our most recent calculation was 45, a full 10 points above Egypt.

    But Chicago's was the most shocking. Our Gini index is 52.2.

    Just to give you some other numbers too, South Korea's is 30, Norway's is 25, Japan's is 37.6. There's a full list on Wikipedia too.

    I really liked the last part of your comment - "

  • One has to wonder if we treated the downtrodden in this nation better what the crime rate and percentage of population in prisons would be?

    Treat people like dogs and that's exactly how they are going to treat others.

    I'm a 2nd generation American (Swedish heritage), and the rich expect to be taxed there.

  • In reply to John815:

    what do you propose? how much better can they be treated? have you seen the statistics on how much welfare/etc. is offered?

    i lived in The Netherlands for several years and my take away is that Northern Europe can offer the social safetynet that they do because they don't have 20% of the population that would game the system.

    As far as the rich expecting to be taxed - that is why (a) european countries don't tax world wide assets/income and (b) why all rich europeans have their money offshore.

    I think the fastest way to cure your 2nd Gen American ideology is to take a drive sometime around 10pm through certain neighborhoods and see how you feel after that.

  • Her statement is complete nonsense: "when they have nothing to gain, they'll also have nothing to lose by destroying it"

    While I agree that would probably be the "have-nots" attitude, is it possible that they have nothing because that is their attitude about everything in life?

    Also, considering that the end result of that attitude is criminal violence, it should be met with zero tolerance.

    Your article is filled with white guilt. Frankly, I don't see how race is a factor in this at all. It is about a class of people, no matter the color of their skin.

    How about instead of the customary psycho-sociology search for a solution, let's make a publc example of these criminals and rather than 'trying to understand' let's lock them up. I think our new mayor came out absolutely correct on this by stating emphatically he was going to catch these thugs.

  • In reply to ebuddha:

    "Your article is filled with white guilt."

    (scratching my head before I answer) I don't think she has white guilt. Guilt comes from something YOU do, not what others do. Now, if you are talking about guilt by association, then I understand where you are coming from.

    One of the biggest problems with race relations is that we are AFRAID to talk about them. It's almost if those who DON'T like talking about race are the guilty ones. A dog won't scream unless you step on its tail. So, if you are not the intended audience, don't be so sensitive.

    Either you're part of the solution or you're part of the problem. Race is a factor because people of a certain "race" keep falling into a certain "class".

    Oh yeah, and about locking folks up, remember that black teens aren't the only ones who commit crimes. Remember Glenbrook North in 2003. Last time I checked, those young people received probation and community service as THEIR punishment. And they contaminated their victims with feces and urine.

  • In reply to MrIsaacs:

    actually, i think the biggest problem about race relations is not that we don't talk enough about it, it's that we use race as the reason for too many things. how about judging a person by their actions/character and not the color of their skin.

    as far as the guilt i ascribe to the young girl who wrote the original article, her guilt is the guilt of (a) having too much relative to those whose actions we are discussing and (b) not having done enough (or caused enough to be done) for these people.

    so, i suggested a zero tolerance, stiff penalty policy for people who commit crimes.

    what is your solution (other than bringing up white suburban kids getting lenient penalities)?

  • In reply to ebuddha:

    Hi ebuddha-

    Just so you're aware, I'm not a "young girl." I'm married and I'm nearly 30 years old.

    I don't feel guilty. I'm informed about the state of race in our city and our nation. I went through a period of white guilt, but I came out of that to realize that writing about race and class is my way of contributing to the problems in our city. That's why I'm an investigative reporter.

    Also, I didn't actually say this was a race thing. In the beginning, I said other people were trying to get me to write about race and the flash mob story. I came to another conclusion.

    And when did I say the perpetrators shouldn't be punished?

    What I'm saying is that the violence spreading to the swankiest part of town may be a symptom of a greater problem - the vast inequities that plague our city. Do you have a solution to that, other than locking people up? I can't imagine it's what Buddha would do.

  • In reply to ebuddha:

    "nearly 30" - thanks, i've just pissed myself. you've got a lot of complexes and apparently age is another one.


  • In reply to ebuddha:

    Perhaps me being only 29 doesn't qualify me to have an opinion in your eyes. That's fine. I object to being called a "young girl" because you said it in order to demean what I said. I found that rude and sexist.

    You seem to come up with all these extraneous arguments that are not at all what this article was talking about. Who said anything about welfare? If you'd read my work, you'd know I hate the welfare system in this country. I'd see it abolished tomorrow if it were in my power.

    My problem is this: the people who are committing these crimes are essentially kids. That doesn't mean they're not responsible for what they do, but it does mean this: a lot of kids in our city grow up with lousy parents, crappy schools, violent neighborhoods where they see nothing to push them toward anything more. Sure, there are five year-olds with drive, but most kids, like you said, take how they behave from how they are raised. What else are they supposed to act like?

    I'm not advocating for more handouts. I'm advocating for our city not being divided into zones where kids can grow up happy and healthy and where they have no real options. When generation after generation experiences that, there's going to be fallout. I can't see punishing a kid for who they were born to, and that's what our society does by continuing gross inequities.

    Honestly, I feel like any white person who writes about race is accused of having white guilt. I write and talk and interview people about these issues every single day of the week, and I don't need to prove to you my psychological fitness to do my job.

  • In reply to MeganCottrell:

    two posts ago you said "I didn't say this was a race thing", yet your article says "That's the problem with intense racial and economic segregation"

    by referring to you as a 'young girl' my point is that your comments are not unique - you bring up nothing new - rather your commentary is as old as the hills and is generally expressed by young people in their 20s. By the time they're 40, they've realized the world is not as ideal as they thought.

    I've thought about this problem for perhaps longer than you've been alive and concluded that the only real, long-term solution is something that may sound in-humane, but before i suggest it, let me share one other tidbit: we used to live in the city when our kids were young (by the time our oldest was 5, the daily murders, even on the North Side were just too much for me). We always had sitters from Moody Bible and several of them also donated their time to families in Cabrini

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