To Chicago, with Love

I’m disgusted about what is happening in Chicago and it is not for all of the reasons that you may think. I am appalled by what took place on August 10th in my hometown. I’m not as embarrassed as I am disappointed and sad.   I feel sick that there was (another) homicide, as well as the so-called retaliatory vandalism that followed. Which solved absolutely nothing and yet created more problems of untold proportions. I don’t understand how this beautiful city has seemingly lost control to the extent that local law enforcement and city officials have been unable to maintain law and order.  It’s mind-boggling as I attempt to wrap my head around how some people have lost all respect for the law, property; businesses that help the city thrive, and themselves.  I often wonder about any ulterior motives for the relatively recent interests in criminal activities occurring in this city. 

The following are my views as someone who grew up in Chicago.  I am not a historian, nor do I speak on behalf of anyone other than myself. I believe what I witnessed from hundreds of miles away is the effects of countless systemic root causes that will take time to heal and collectively dismantle.  I’ll talk about some of these root causations from my perspective in this piece.

Throughout the history of Chicago, there are communities that were permitted to function in environments where violence, vandalism, burglary and other forms of illegal activity were accepted and even supported.  Chicago is a city that has been divided literally by geography based on race, social class, and economics.  A case in point, take a look at the history of the Dan Ryan Expressway .  You can also review the history of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), that managed many high-rise public housing projects (e.g., Cabrini-Green, Stateway Gardens to name a few), that were once breeding grounds (albeit mostly contained within those communities), for the level of terror and crime that has spilled out onto unsuspecting neighborhoods, that were otherwise deemed untethered and safe. 

I think education plays a major role in the cause and effect issue, namely the quality of public school education in the City of Chicago.  Between budget constraints; an overall lack of support for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers, we have serious disparities in the critical area of education.  Some of these issues are legacy problems in terms of funding, however, the larger issue has to do with parental involvement as well as student engagement.  I attended CPS from kindergarten through 12th grade.  I have many family and friends who are educators, some of whom currently teach in Chicago, or have experience working in Chicago Public Schools.  Any one of them can tell you a number of countless horror stories of confrontations with parents who become belligerent, over “criticism” (e.g., feedback) about their child’s behavior in class.  

For the record…aggressive behavior towards teachers is not exclusive or isolated to Chicago, or CPS by any means.  I also know teachers who teach in other cities and states.  I am confident that there are plenty of other teachers and educators who would cosign this observed behavior whether it be in public or private school settings.  The overarching problem with parents who engage in this detrimental misconduct is that they are teaching a child a very dangerous lesson.  The child learns from the adult that authority figures can be undermined, or even threatened with violence, if one disagrees with a statement, or action.  If a child is allowed to be disrespectful to teachers, neighbors, or other human beings without consequence, they become adults who have little if any regard for laws or humanity.  

Invariably, the child suffers long-term when they fail to receive a quality education that leads to matriculation, in addition to acquiring competitive marketable skills for the current job market.  Education continues to be the barometer that determines the quality of employment options an individual has access to.  School also provides a foundational structure necessary for most traditional jobs.  Without these basic skills, a child is left vulnerable to seek alternative means to earn income and purpose.  Some would argue that an individual has the right to choose whether to receive a traditional education or not.  Others can argue that these initial choices end up having long-term impacts on the greater society, overall economy, community, etc.  

It literally begins in the home. There are many children who are raising (parenting) themselves due to a variety of factors.  When a child is left to their own devices, having minimal choices or experience with deciphering between right and wrong, we later blame this same child for making “poor choices.”  

In many ways, the collective “we” have failed our youth.  

I watched countless young people shamelessly looting and celebrating immoral actions that day. There is something exceptionally wrong here. And we better fix it or risk a dangerous future in which nobody wins.

Most of us are too busy to nurture, listen, mentor, or support them.  We only seem to notice when they do something wrong.  Which is often a tactic or cry for help.  Many families have a generational pattern of failure to properly communicate with the youth; leaving many of them to question whether they matter and are loved unconditionally. Some will need a lifetime to recover from this level of alienation of affection. 

Ever since televisions became so affordable that every household could own one, which over the years quickly crescendoed to Smart TVs in every room of the house, generations of children have been raised by an electronic or virtual babysitter.  Oh yes, I’m going there.  This is not a Millennial, Gen X, Y, or Z (yes, Z for ‘Zennial’) problem.  Perhaps it is the generation that is often the most verbose in its criticism of these generations that is/are the culprit.  

I can speak for my generation (X); when we are chided for our music, lifestyle choices, etc., my rhetorical question (read: response), is: Which generation raised us and how? How many of us were latch-key kids growing up? Every generation grows up doing as its caretakers do, and not as they say.  A tree is only as strong as its roots; the branches are only as healthy as the tree from which they spring forward from.  

If we’re tired of watching our youth’s flagrant disregard for humanity, we need to start right now by teaching our babies and littles ones to become better by modeling behaviors we expect them to emulate. Children need pride and morals quite frankly.  They need accountability and tough love.  Children need to be raised.  They need to be parented in such a way that they are prepared for an independent life, versus one where there is always someone there to fight their battles, pay for their expenses, or even their repeated mistakes.  

You want to know how I learned to stop taking my college education for granted?  When my parents refused to pay for substandard grades and low effort.  I had to learn and accept the consequences of my actions.  I eventually learned to appreciate the gift of a college education. 

But first I had to be given the freedom and latitude to become an independent woman who thinks for herself, and finds herself capable of handling her own business. A woman who would learn self-confidence through doing things that instilled self-pride.  Children, even young adult children, must learn that we love them enough to trust them. To trust that they know the right thing to do and will do it. 

Because we lovingly showed them the way.

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