We’ve all become accustomed to the routine. There’s a shooting, and the police call the incident “gang-related”. Well, one or more of the participants may have, at some time been associated with a gang, but what does “gang-related” really mean?
“I push back on the gang label”, says Natalie Moore, writer, author, and south-side reporter for WBEZ. “Living in a segregated city like Chicago, where people may not go to the west side or the south sides, it may make people feel absolved of the problem – well, those are just those people down there in gangs who are probably deserving to die, and they’re killing one another. I think there’s a real disconnect.”
Part of the problem, she says, is the changing nature of Chicago’s gang structure.
“The era of big Chicago gangs isn’t what it once was”, she explains. “There are a lot of splinter groups, block crews, neighborhood crews…and some of the violence that we see is what we’d call intra-gang fighting, so these are members of the same so-called crew, or gang, who are inflicting violence on one-another. So it’s a really complicated picture where you have to talk about segregation, jobs and structural violence in these communities, and when you just write them all off as gangs, it’s not painting a full or accurate picture.”
“Our murder count is a lot lower today – and even last year, when we had a spike – compared to the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s,” she adds. “What I hear from people is that they hear more ordinary kids , or non-gang-affiliated kids are caught up in these struggles.”
A major contributor to these complex problems has been the out-migration of African-Americans from Chicago. But John McCarron, contributing columnist for the Chicago Tribune (and 27-year Trib staffer) says it isn’t all about tearing down public housing.
“The other thing is the foreclosure crisis,” he explains. “In some of these neighborhoods, one in seven, one in four, dwelling units were foreclosed on. They were really victimized by the banksters.”
McCarron takes on what he calls the “craven” 2010 re-map process. “The re-map was done to save incumbents. To not diminish black representation even though the population is way down. So it wasn’t really a racially-motivated thing. But, Rahm Emanuel really got the guys he wanted to get. Sposato was drawn out of his own ward- he’s gotta move if he wants to run again, and Fioretti was a thorn under the mayor’s saddle, so that’s the nature of the game. This is what redistricting has become.”
McCarron offers an interesting perspective on charter schools, which have been enthusiastically embraced by the president, the Secretary of Education and Chicago’s mayor. “It’s the half-a-loaf that they’re gonna use to forestall vouchers”, he says. “They’re saying well, at least the charter schools are still public schools and we’ll still have some sway. So I’ve always looked at it as a way to forestall the voucher movement and to get around the rules the Chicago Teachers’ Union has won in contract that make it almost impossible to discharge an incompetent teacher.”