Kanye’s latest album, scheduled appearances with the Kardashians and Chi-town Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s cabinet diversity is as good as it gets if you need a dose of Chicago in mainstream Black media. What you won’t find highlighted is the fact that, statistically, Chicago is now more dangerous than Kabul, Afghanistan.
While we’ve only reached a little over 190 days in the first half of 2012, Chicago’s homicide rate for 2012 has reached 254 by last count – at the current rate, it’s probably more than that. You do the math to find an average of more than 1 person shot and killed a day due to gang violence in Windy City.
American troops killed in Afghanistan since New Year’s Day 2012: 144.
Triple digit heat last week didn’t help, obviously adding to the frustration. The city on the banks of Lake Michigan couldn’t find that famous wind to cool things down. While, per 1,000 people, Chicago is not the nation’s most dangerous city (yet), according to the FBI statistics – no, little-city-that-just-can’t Flint, Michigan tops that at 23.4 per 1,000 – what it loses in data runs it makes up for in its size. While New York City is over three times the size of Illinois’ largest, Chicago’s murder rate is quadruple the Big Apple’s … and double Los Angeles.
So, you can understand if some folks are, literally, running for their lives to get out of Chicago. That is, if they can since nearly 30% of Chicago residents live below the poverty and the unemployment rate is nearly 2 percentage points above the national rate. The Black poverty rate is close to 35%, with over 300,000 Black residents living poor in a city of 2.7 million – and a population that is 33% African American. The violence is hitting that particular population the hardest. But, if you’re Black and you live on its South Side, can you even buy a plane ticket and resettle elsewhere?
Good luck learning about it in the Black press, which appears more enamored with Chi-town’s Black royalty than the plight of its less fortunate lot. You might find it trending, a term now used to describe the Kings and Queens of prom nights in an infinite, endless space of code. The protracted love gush with Kanye West, who’s latest album is a detached bragging rights rant on just how much money he spent on samples, and renewed titillation with child molesting R. Kelly, is the Chicago Black media knows best.
That other Chicago is someone else’s problem.
There are a number of interesting and very political reasons for this peculiar, yet rather dramatic moment of Black media mediocrity. Chicago is the political birthplace of our first Black president, hence an embarrassing subtext to the unfolding violence in his “hometown.” Its current mayor is his former Chief of Staff, a well-known, hardheaded cuss-bucket who’s profanity-laced tirades on and off Capitol Hill is the stuff of legend. And, the president’s re-election bid is headquartered in, you guessed it, Chicago.
Everyone (is supposed to) love Chicago. But, what was once the center of the political universe now looks like a new Prohibition era gangster film, the actors of a darker persuasion.
These days, Chicago’s gangs have managed to render Rahm Emanuel seemingly impotent. And for the assorted Black digerati, news and pundit class, highlighting that violence risks submitting to uncomfortable stereotypes and accusations; that President Obama has said absolutely nothing about it speaks volumes about where his head might be on the subject. Republicans, too afraid to step into the icy waters of race (they should be looking at the record), could actually leverage a conversation into Election Day doubts about the Chi-town violence that festered under the watch of the Chicago-bred (translated: Black) president … who won’t talk about it.
That’s also a conversation many Black editors, reporters and commentators are probably avoiding, as well. Much like they avoid other relevant conversations about a generation of Black wealth lost to recession – which could explain the roots of Chicago violence. Or, the fact that 4 out of the Top 5 most violent U.S. cities have populations over 50% Black. Yet, the blinding white teeth of grinning entertainers just might blind you if you’re not careful.