As the lone Chicagoan in our class, I thought I would have a lot to say in the discussions on my city. However, I’ve noticed over the past two weeks that we’ve been looking at big moments in the history of Chicago, and not so much at contemporary culture on which I could give insider insight. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is fascinating to learn about the World’s Fair and the Haymarket Riot, but both of them do not give Chicago the best reputation. The World’s Fair was a marginalizing space that kept rich, white men in the foreground, and the Haymarket Riot was an example of police brutality and the killing of innocent civilians.
The more I think about it, the more I see how these historical events, specifically Haymarket, are related to the Chicago of today. Chicago is a city that has always dealt with a great deal of violence. Looking at the table below, you can see that the murder rate has gone down incredibly over the years. However, don’t be fooled. New York’s murder rate is a third of Chicago’s, and Los Angeles’ is half of it—and both of those cities are bigger. (Found that in an article in the Sun Times) Even scarier: Toronto had one of its worst gun years in history in 2005, with 79 homicides. Meanwhile, Chicago was overjoyed with the strikingly low amount of 448 that year Thank you, WBEZ..
For some reason, Chicago has a terrible problem with guns. For 28 years, handguns were banned in the city, but the Supreme Court ruled against this ban recently. Some say it is due to the large gangs. Whatever the case, it is rare that a day goes by without a murder or shooting. (I’m not kidding, in January, there was a 24-hour period without a murder or shooting that the Police Superintendent was incredibly proud of. [Huff Post reports on it here])
While I find the gun violence ridiculous, and wish that it could be a lot better, I still love Chicago. There are many wonderful things about it that get overshadowed by its history as a cold (read: freezing), smoky, crime-ridden city with bad politics. So, I leave you with my favorite Kanye West tribute to Chicago. The video has lots of nice images of Millenium Park and the El train and all the things that make Chi-town special.