I’m impressed with the arguments presented criticizing the moral panic about gun violence in Chicago. I don’t live in Chicago, but I’ve certainly read a number of heavily negative media stories in the last year. Prison Culture blog has the critique and it seems persuasive to me.
It’s certainly true that in some parts of the city, you are more likely to be shot or physically harmed than in others. However, on the whole, Chicago is actually “safer” in terms of public shootings and homicides than it’s been in decades. The city is in fact nowhere close to being the so-called “Murder Capital” of the country. Check the statistics, you’ll see that I’m right.
But you notice that I said “safer” in terms of public shootings and homicides, not “safer” in terms of “violence.” Because in very real ways, in terms of structural and institutional violence and overall oppression, things are pretty terrible for a lot of people. But we don’t discuss this with nearly the frequency or sensationalism that we do when we catalog the dead and the injured (as important as it is to memorialize those precious lives).
I also like that they address the militarized language that influences the way we understand poverty and policing in Chicago.
When we use these terms (which may or may not accurately describe how we live based on our own subjective experiences), we inadvertently legitimate a military response from the state (though the state needs no excuse to crackdown on the marginalized).
I would suggest that even more insidious is the way that these terms condition our own thinking about ourselves and each other. We trap ourselves into responding to these structural problems with a punishment mindset and a war footing. And this has devastating consequences for communities that are already over-policed, militarized, under-resourced and ravaged through decades of disinvestment. Using this terminology ultimately contributes nothing to ending interpersonal violence & may in fact exacerbate it.
Thanks to Feministing for the suggestion via their Weekly Feminist Reader.