By: Cailey Griffin
When some Chicagoans speak about their experience living in Chicago, they gush. These people excitedly share details about their latest visit to the Sears Tower, shopping sprees in the Gold Coast area, and Boat trips on Lake Michigan. When other Chicagoans share their experience of living in Chicago they share details of attending schools that provided very little opportunity, a constant fear of losing their life due to gun violence, and an authentic dream to escape Chicago.
How do these people living in the same city have such different life experiences? The answer lies in Dr. Martin Luther King’s reflection on his experience in Chicago. According to Steve Johnson for the Chicago Tribune, Dr. King said “that he had never encountered such hatred,” as he did during several of his visits to Chicago during the 60’s. Although many would claim Chicago has made growth since Dr. King’s visit, Chicago is still an extremely racially segregated city.
According to Statistical Atlas.com, the percentage of White Americans living in the South Side Chicago neighborhood Englewood is 0.8 percent compared to the 99.2 percent of Black Americans living in Englewood. The majority of White Americans in Chicago are not living in low-income, violence ridden South Side and West Side neighborhoods. This means the majority of White Americans are living downtown, on the North Side, or in suburbs outside of Chicago.
According to The Economist, the amount of violent crimes in the U.S increased by 4.1% in 2016 compared to the amount in 2015, and Chicago “accounted for 22% of the nationwide increase with 765 murders last year,” which was more than the combined amount of murders in New York, the largest city, and Los Angeles, the second largest city. The Economist also cites that “the vast majority of these killings happened in five mostly black and Latino neighbourhoods on the south and west side where only 9% of the 2.7m city lives.”
Three Chicagoans share their experience growing up in the city and dealing with the very real presence of Gun Violence in their life.
Jana Baylor (19) South Shore
“As someone who lives in Chicago there are a lot of areas I’m not allowed to go to. Around night time, I stay in the house because it’s not safe at all. As far as the trauma goes, it’s something that happens a lot so there’s not a lot I can do about it besides protect myself as much as I can. I don’t go into dangerous neighborhoods. I always feel really nervous, especially being a black woman. There not a lot of safe spaces for a woman’s body and to be black. So it’s really nerve wracking sometimes.”
Uriah Brown (22) West Garfield Park
Brown shares that during his time in high school, specifically as a Sophomore at King College prep, he had a friend who he attended a Summer debate camp with and would always pass by in the hallway.
“I remember that specific day we had a quick conversation in the hallway and come to find out after school when she went to the park with her friends some shots rang out in the park and she wound up getting hit with one. I remember just seeing on the news her picture and I knew exactly who she was. What went through my head was the exact conversation we had in the hallway, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and if she was the potential target or who was the potential target. If anything there’s just the fact that you can’t take life for granted because anything can happen.”
Byron Mason (20) South Shore
“As far as gun violence, it’s always something around and it’s always something you have to be cognizant of. I have friends that live in certain neighborhoods of Chicago and it’s always weird because you’ll just be standing outside and you’ll hear gunshots down the block. So it’s always something that you have to be aware of and you just have to have your antennas up.”