* HBO’s “Vice” program did something last month that I haven’t seen much in any local reporting. Instead of just interviewing Chicago crime victims, social and violence experts and the police, the documentarians also interviewed teenage gangsters.
I watched the documentary, entitled “Chiraq,” when it first came out and was quite disturbed, but also incredibly fascinated. You just don’t see stuff like this.
* Fair warning, there is a lot of profanity in this video. Don’t play the video at work if you’ll get in trouble for that sort of thing. There’s also a lot of hyperbole, as we’ll discuss in a minute. Keeping all that in mind, make sure to watch it…
* From Chicagoist…
Toward the end of VICE’s segment on Chicago, the narrator says “younger kids in Chicago … have so internalized their situation by proudly calling their city Chiraq and themselves soldiers or savages.”
The narrator goes on to say “the South Side of Chicago is basically a failed state within the borders of the U.S.”
We’re not sure what it is about “Chiraq” that bothers us. Perhaps it’s that it implies there are two sides to the war, both suffering fatalities. The last time we checked the innocent bystanders are not armed soldiers fighting a war, but neither are the civilians in Iraq. Perhaps “Chiraq” is oversimplifying the problem. There aren’t two sides, and this isn’t a war with a definitive end.
There are plenty of disturbingly dramatic and chilling moments in the documentary.
But one thing that stuck out for me was the lack of trauma centers on the South Side to deal with the shootings. As a result, victims are dying because they can’t get treatment in a timely manner.
* So far, the Sun-Times has ignored the documentary. The Tribune made passing reference the other day…
The term has been tossed around on social media and even has its own Twitter handle. It has been uttered in an HBO documentary series that explored urban violence. The Urban Dictionary added it as an entry last year, defining the word as a way to summarize Chicago’s violent history. There are even T-shirts that boast the label.
“Why we make that comparison, is because very, very unfortunately, the term is true,” said Malcolm London, a 20-year-old spoken-word artist from Austin. London said he heard the moniker used in everyday language, but it didn’t really strike him until he saw it printed on shirts.
“It’s a scary term, but it’s a true term. Coming from the West Side, it’s not a joke. The sad part is, people who may not be here, or live here, may use the term to glorify the violence. But no one enjoys living in a war zone.”
This isn’t the first time Chicago has been compared to a war zone. In the 1980s, the Wall Street Journal dubbed the city “Beirut on the Lake” because of political infighting.
Once again, missing from that article were the voices of the combatants. You may not care about those people, and maybe they shouldn’t be glorified by giving them coverage. But how else are we gonna find out what they’re thinking and how they live and why they do what they do? “Chiraq” is a somewhat flawed start, but at least it’s a start.
Maybe some media outlets should send some experienced war reporters into the hot zones and tell us what’s really going on.
* On the other hand, Eric Zorn did a good job in a recent column quelling the hype on the city’s murder rate…
Chicago had the most murders of any city in America last year, 506, and was the site in late January of a heartbreaking killing that made international news — when Hadiya Pendleton, 15, a King College Prep honor student, was mistakenly gunned down in an attempted gang hit just days after she’d returned from performing in Washington, D.C., at presidential inaugural festivities.
But even with its 17 percent spike in murders in 2012, Chicago was far from the deadliest city in America. Our murder rate, 18.5 per 100,000 residents according to preliminary FBI data, was 21st in the nation, better than Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans and Detroit, to name a few.
Chicago also wasn’t even close to the most dangerous city in America last year, ranking 43rd in overall per capita violent crime in preliminary data.
Further, we’re not experiencing an “epidemic” of murder, per the talking heads. Nor is the city’s homicide rate “spiral(ing) out of control,” as a guest essayist on these pages put it Wednesday.
He also listed per capita crime rates for dozens of cities that were higher than Chicago’s last year. Included on that list: Rockford and Springfield. Rockford’s media appears to get it. I’m not sure there’s much of a recognition in Springfield, however.
* King L Explains The Term “Chiraq”: “Iraq, people like you go over, things blowing up, like that’s natural,” he added. “It ain’t natural to see [something] just blow up in the middle of the street. That’s not natural in Chicago, you don’t get used to that.”
* Black Caucus discusses urban violence at Chicago State
* Emergency Summit On Urban Violence Opens In Chicago