Pathologizing Black Communities: Chicago Violence Receives the Wrong Attention

Chicago Police investigate a person shot August 19th in the 13100 block of South Rhodes. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

When discussing racially-charged news, a loaded response in the U.S. is What about Chicago? This ‘question’ ripples in racist ways akin to What about black on black violence? – it leans on a need to pathologize and sensationalize black communities. Breanna Edwards at The Root reports Chicago homicides receive inordinate media attention, yet its statistics actually fall in the middle of national averages (St. Louis currently has the highest rate).

In the wake of recent violence, city officials responded by deploying an extra 430-600 police officers to affected areas. Edwards questions this as a solution. She instead cites uneven resource allocation and widespread school and health center closings — not a racial proclivity requiring policing — among the many critical factors creating unrest.

To be sure, no one can argue that guns are not an issue in the city, but gun violence aside, as the report notes, Chicago is more or less “unexceptional.” To be clear, I’m not insinuating that we should shrug our shoulders and let the issues in Chicago go unresolved, but in the same breath, the city is certainly not deserving of the stigma attached to its name.

“It tells a story that black people are pathological, that we don’t make moral decisions and that we don’t actually have community values as [Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel] pretty much said this past week and so it allows them to displace people from our communities and it allows them to continue to divest from our communities.”

Who can forget the controversial closing of more than 50 public schools in 2013, the largest school closure in Chicago’s history, closings that disproportionately impacted black and brown children and those living in poverty? Then there’s the fact that Emanuel closed half of the city’s 12 mental health clinics about 6 years ago, effectively gutting the mental-health care system, again, disproportionately affecting underprivileged communities, leaving those in the community who need help vulnerable.

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