146 people have been killed in Chicago this year.
Thus, one more entry in the Black Nihilism series. I do hope that we can one day stop talking about such matters. Such a moment is far in the future.
The most recent episode of HBO's news-documentary series Vice focused on Chicago's gang violence. Apparently, Chicago has now been rechristened "Chiraq" by the gangs and those others who suffer from them as human collateral damage.
The day-to-day reality of Chiraq also echoes the findings of social scientists Sudhir Venkatesh and Steven Levitt who determined that being a street level drug dealer in Chicago during the height of the crack epidemic was more dangerous than being a soldier during the second Iraq invasion and occupation.
The indifference to human life on display in Vice's story on Chicago's gang violence is a function of many factors.
These include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. The drug trade;
2. The ready availability of guns;
3. A ghetto youthocracy where responsible elders and other parental figures are absent;
4. Broken homes and broken families;
5. Alternative social norms where murder, gun play, and going to jail are rites of passage;
6. Hyper-masculinity that is defined by violence and other negative social behavior(s);
7. Failed social institutions;
8. Limited life worlds where individuals find themselves normalized to violence, street culture, and death;
9. Poverty and unemployment;
10. An internalization of self-hatred that views the lives of other people of color as being less than human, meaningless, and uniquely suited for targets of violence and black on black crime.
Vice's story on Chicago's epidemic of street violence is solid. It is no "Interrupters". Vice does not reach for such heights.
However, Vice does an excellent job of highlighting how gentrification, Section 8 programs, and "urban renewal" took a more localized problem and spread it citywide like a virus, disease, or ant hill of pathology kicked over by an indifferent elephant.
As I have suggested earlier, Section 8 is a prime example of a public policy where good intentions have gone horribly wrong.
My claim is simple: Section 8 has helped to transplant what were local problems to other areas, rewarded absentee landlords, and hurt working class and lower middle class communities.
The solution to poor housing is that there should be fair housing for all people, anti-discrimination laws should be properly enforced, and that a living wage should be the law of the land. Vouchers are not a viable solution to the problem of inadequate housing for the poor.
Transplanting the ghetto underclass to healthy, functioning communities, is not a solution to the social ills of poverty and the truncated life trajectories among the poor. In all, programs such as Section 8--when abused--further disadvantage neighborhoods where upwardly mobile and dreaming strivers (and the politics of respectability) have a slippery and tenuous hold on life success.
I often wonder what would happen if the public policy experts, those others who advocated for the laws that created Chicago's gang problem, and then helped to spread it to other communities, had to live in the neighborhoods negatively impacted by their decisions.
Social distance creates indifference. Maybe social intimacy could create enlightened policy?