In my STYA After School Program recently some of my students were putting me on to some of their favorite Rappers, most who came from Chicago. I began to recognize a pattern beyond the Drill style rap music and gritty lyrics; many of these young rappers were no longer here. Song after song my students would share with me the gruesome tale behind these young men getting murdered. Since 2014 there's been dozens of young Chicago rappers, many of them teenagers, whose blood was spilled in the streets.
In 2016 there were 762 murders in the city of Chicago; the total leading number of murders in the United States with the majority being black men under forty years of age. According to the number of murders reported to the FBI based upon cities with a population of 25,000 residents and above, Chicago Heights, IL was ranked #30 on the list of murder capitals of the world in 2016. Places like Birmingham Alabama, Myrtle Beach South Carolina, Riviera Beach Florida and twenty-five other cities outranked Chicago Heights as murder capitals. For the second year in a row East St. Louis was ranked #1 with a crime index of 3%, meaning it's only safer than 3% of the cities in the United States. Chicago Heights was safer than 15% of the cities in the United States.
Whenever we're looking at statistics like this, coupled with sensationalized news stories, some of us could easily get the impression that Chicago is 1980's Beirut or the present day West Bank. While there is definitely a disproportionate amount of violence going on in some Chicago communities in comparison to other communities that are the same size, it's also important to keep in mind that a white person is about six times more likely to be killed by another white person than somebody black. The media's lack of coverage on this white on white violence is virtually nonexistent in comparison to its obsessive compulsion of black on black violence. Considering that propaganda we still cannot dismiss the narrative of those who live and have grown up in Chicago who see this carnage. I've lived there myself for a few months on the South Side, South Lowe to be exact, back in the early 2000's. Since that time, and with it's growing poverty and community deterioration, it's gotten much worst. Depending upon Politicians to fix it is equivalent to expecting Physicians to help regulate Big Pharma. There's no silver bullet and it requires a concerted effort of grassroots initiatives of dedicated community members to change the culture of violence in Chicago and transform its socioeconomic landscape. In the meantime, these Changemakers must survive in order to have an opportunity to strive. Here is something one of my sister's named Tanya shared that highlights some basic rules for how to survive in Chicago. Tanya is a professional hairstylist that was born, raised and currently resides in Chicago:
1. Don't sit in cars kicking it.
2. Get EVERYTHING you need and get to your destination.
3. Keep your eyes and ears open! Watch your surrounding instead of running your mouth.
4. Know who you're hanging with and what they're up to.
5. Google numbers, order your food ahead of time don't sit in local spots.
6. Track the bus if you have to ride it. That bus stop stuff is dead. Also if it does not look safe always walk a block up.
7. Don't be listening to your headphones, you gotta hear stuff.
8. Don't sit and watch when people getting rowdy KEEP IT MOVING!!
9. If you get into a confrontation assess your situation first before you snap. You never know what a person got on them. Forget being tough. Make it back home.
10. If something don't look right trust your instinct. If you hear gun shots get down quickly until it stops.
11. Don't loiter in front of the house like an easy target!! Don't run unless someone is shooting at you.
12. When in public, keep your face out of your phone, and your phone out of your face. Keep that $500 object hidden. Period.
13. Don't mix BEING CAUTIOUS with BEING SCARY. Forget what somebody thinks, make it back home to your FAMILY!!!!
Although these survival tips relate to communities in Chicago, they are also applicable to other communities around the country and internationally. I've been to hoods in Canada these tips apply to as well. It's also worth mentioning that from 1980 to 2008, 53.3% of gang-homicides were committed by white offenders and 56.3% of gang-homicide victims were white . This means that there are communities that are predominately white and poor where these survival tips also apply. In fact, black people, especially males, need to follow these survival tips in any predominately white communities that are poor and especially when they're affluent. Historically there's been countless examples of blacks being racially profiled, harassed, criminalized, incarcerated, assaulted and murdered simply because they were in a white person's neighborhood.