I am both honored and saddened to share this guest post today. The writer did not wish to be identified, to lessen any alarm for family and friends concerned over her safety. This is Chicago, folks, in 2014.
The only crime scene I expect to see when I take my son to the bakery is the inevitable mess of crumbs that result from the collision of a kid and a cupcake. This Saturday afternoon, however, was not so idyllic.
We walked to get our cupcakes. When we were about two doors down from our favorite neighborhood bakery a police car sped by with its sirens on. It was loud. My son covered his ears. Other than the noise I didn’t think much about it. We live near a police station. The car could have been going anywhere.
We went in to the bakery so quickly that I didn’t notice the police car stopped on the next block.
The vibe in the bakery was odd. Adults were talking in hushed tones, clearly discussing something they didn’t want children to hear.
That’s how I learned that someone had been shot. On a street in my neighborhood. At 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.
It had happened just minutes earlier. There were two kids alone at a table enjoying their cupcakes. I was told their mom was giving a statement because she had seen the shooting.
If we had not been walking at a 5 year old’s pace, stopping frequently to balance on concrete dividers and look at interesting leaves, perhaps we would have rounded the corner early enough to witness the crime. Or worse.
Gun violence does not respect the invisible lines that say it is a south side problem or a west side problem. Gun violence is a Chicago problem. More so, gun violence is an American problem.
Even if certain places, such as Chicago, try to limit access to guns in their communities other guns will find their ways across the invisible lines that separate counties and states with varying levels of gun control laws. To be effective a solution must be national.
And while limiting access to guns will help, we also need to address the poverty that makes desperate people do desperate things that often involve guns.
Yes, if you were wondering, the news accounts do say this incident was gang violence, but the only victim is reported to be an innocent bystander. He died.
We can’t dismiss gun violence by saying it’s just gangbangers killing each other. Other people get shot.
We can’t dismiss gun violence by saying it’s a different neighborhood’s problem. Those neighborhoods are not that far away.
We can’t dismiss gun violence by being against gun control because some good people want to have guns too. Guns are dangerous and need to be regulated.
I am writing this anonymously because my family already fears for my safety because of the headlines about Chicago gun violence that appear on the national news. Knowing how close I was to a shooting would have people coming to pack me up for somewhere safer.
But I don’t want to go. I love my neighborhood, and I love Chicago. To borrow a phrase from the gun rights folks, I will stand my ground.
I like to believe this can still be a place where a mom can take her son to get a cupcake without happening upon a crime scene, but a lot of shit is going to have to change. It’s not going to get better on its own.
The victim of this shooting was 28 year old Wil Lewis, a young man who had moved to the neighborhood last year and was supposed to start a new job this week. He and his wife had previously lived in Wisconsin. Read about the shooting here.