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Chicago's Gangs Aren't the Problem

Protesters in Chicago (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Protesters in Chicago (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

When discussing the problems of violence in Chicago, people should focus beyond gangs, Mikki Kendall writes at The Toast. Kendall argues that the city "needs healing and access to resources and opportunities that have vanished with each wave of gentrification." 

Experts on Chicago (who often are neither from Chicago or remotely educated about Chicago politics or Chicago history), often disparage the people in the community. And no, I'm not making excuses for gang violence. But when we talk about violence in the communities where gangs are most common, we have to talk about the economics of crime. We have to talk about the impact of poverty, of police brutality, of school closures, of services being cut over and over again to these neighborhoods. We have to talk about the impact of racism on wealth building in communities of color. We have to talk about politicians who think the solution to crime is to throw civil liberties out the window. We have to talk about why the institutional reaction to white-on-white violence was settlement houses, while the institutional reaction to violence in predominantly Black and Latino communities is to bring in the National Guard.

It's easy to forget that the people living in those neighborhoods are more complex than a sound bite, when those sound bites are often all that make it into the mainstream media. There's this idea that the community is responsible for fixing itself, as though these things are happening because the people living there have dozens of choices and they choose the ones that leads to violence.

Discussions of mental health issues–like post-traumatic stress disorder–stop when race and crime enter the equation. Yet we know that kids who witness violence early in life are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and yes, PTSD. We know that the kids who join gangs often come from unstable homes. Yet all too often, sympathy for the victims is as minimal as it is for the people doing the shooting. When you look at comments on articles about gun violence here, the racists usually come out to play. They're happy to lambast poor people of color for living in the only places they can afford in a rapidly gentrifying city where rents have more than tripled in the last 15 years.


Read Mikki Kendall's entire piece at The Toast.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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