[To] What do you attribute the high murder rate in Chicago?

A conservative leaning forum I am on had this posted, and the responses are along the lines you’d expect. While I live in Chicago, I am not a lifelong dweller, where I know some people here are. So am interested to hear people’s thoughts on this fellow’s same question:

Seems I hear about murders in Chicago every other week. Some would say it’s the immigrant gangs; others would say the availability of illegal guns or poverty a big contributor, etc.

What say you? - and please don’t blame Obama.

Here’s a few opinions from my time living there:

  1. It’s the largest segregated city in the nation.
  2. Schooling quality ranges the gamut, but the best schools are competitive, application-only, and don’t accept nearly enough of the minority population; the worst schools are dreadful. The city community colleges aren’t much better.
  3. Territorial/neighborhood alliances run strong - this shows in “gang violence” stats, but this violence also includes non-organized crime.
  4. Not enough jobs for people who want to work
  5. Guns are cheap, plentiful, and solve problems quickly.
  6. Drugs are cheap, plentiful and solve problems quickly.
  7. Public housing used to keep the majority of the violence centered in a few areas (Cabrini Green, for example), but forced closure caused former gang rivals to now live in the same developments.
  8. The quality of the police force varies greatly (to be generous), and there’s hasn’t been a successful community outreach wide enough.

I did some searching and came up with some things that tie into your items:

  1. Loss of manufacturing jobs on the south side over last 20 years
  2. Increase in the drug trade due to the heroin epidemic (funds the gangs)

I think it mostly boils down to public housing and police activities.

The public housing situation forces people together into small areas, which can be territorial. When I was living there, Chicago was territorial in and of itself, even though it had gotten better than it had been. Packing low-income people together into projects only makes it worse, because they have little say in where they live. Plus, because education in Illinois is funded through property tax, the education system in these neighborhoods can be very bad. There are some very good public magnet schools, such as Whitney Young, but everything is stacked against kids from these neighborhoods getting in. There is next to no opportunity to get out of neighborhoods like that.

The police are also a huge part of the problem. Their attitude seems to be to let everyone run amok, and let “those people” sort it out for themselves and kill themselves and each other off. When they don’t, they act as an occupying force. They are not there to help but to suppress, and to indiscriminately target the residents whether they did anything illegal or not. They are criminals for living there, from the police point of view.


Secondary question: Seems clear from responses that the segregation in the city is a big part of the problem. How did that come to pass?

A lot of factors brought it about, but a huge one was the uniting of ethnics and more established whites against black people, especially in residential terms, but also in so many other terms (educational and occupational discrimination, for instance). Much of that is explained in a historian’s book here:



Basically, a constant among the many factors that brought about the ongoing, extreme and racist segregation in Chicago, and elsewhere, is one thing – white folks who don’t want to share anything with, nor be anywhere near, black folks.

(Another near constant is the use of racial differences by entrenched elites to obscure class differences and foment rebellion among people who actually have some important things in common, but that’s a more complicated one.)


Chicago literally invented “redlining”. If you read through the old documents it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Neighborhoods defined by the percentage of different ethnic/racial populations, and the blacker they were, the more they were downgraded.

To this day, many neighborhoods are still ethnic enough that you know you’ve hit a new area when you cross the street and discover the signs in the store windows are in a different language than where you just came from.


Oh, and I’m sorry, @anon75430791: we recently had a meetup in Chicago, but none of us knew you lived in Chicago, so we didn’t contact you. Darn. Well, next time!


Ehhhh, long story. I sort of live in Chicago. Have a studio during the week. But keep me in mind next time!


One of my mom’s more depressing stories of her childhood as an army brat was having to walk home in Chicago on the a specific side of the street with one of her friends who was the wrong ethnicity to walk on the other side of the street, and we are talking Polish vs. Italian not white/black.


Having walked into the “wrong” Polish bar in Chicago a few years ago with my Irish friend, I can attest to that!

We walked in the door and I swore you could hear the record needle scratching - everyone turned around and glared at us. We ordered a couple of OKs and were told “here’s your beer. Drink it and get out.”


People like to forget (or it’s possible they just never knew) that there huge groups of people today considered nothing except “white” were hated – in particular the Irish and the Eastern Europeans.

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I’m curious: what do you consider the value of remembering that?


I do think there’s something instructive there: human beings seem to be wired to feel the need to ‘other’ people. If there aren’t obvious differences, they’ll split the hair, because it is vitally important to have an us-versus-them at all times.

Knowing the underlying problem is the first step in overcoming it.


It’s a valuable reminder of how “whiteness” is a completely arbitrary category, basically meaning “You’re acceptable to us, and we’re willing to share the hegemony in this society with you”.

It’s also a reminder that the yesterday’s mistreated and oppressed minorities can easily, and have in the past, turned around and treated other groups just as badly as they themselves were treated. There are no saints or devils here, only humans.


Yes, and I think it’s a valuable thing to remember for other reasons too. I’m just curious about why @lamaranagram thinks so.

Edit: I completely agree with @LurksNoMore too.

  1. I think it can be comforting, to newcomers, to know that groups once considered solidly “other” today are not.

  2. Reminder that many groups do assimilate. The Irish did. The polish did. The next waves might as well. And now we have St Patricks Day. Maybe in a few generations non-Indians will happily join in on Diwali celebrations.

  3. May remind some people that the hate they have for others was once directed at their own

Edit: Here are where my great-great-grandparents were born. I’m a mutt. And in 100 years we’ll all be more muttish.

Spain - 1
NYC - 2
England - 2
Ireland - 6
Mexico - 5


Mostly agree, except with the idea that all will assimilate. Black people haven’t, for example, in a white supremacist social order that still subordinates them. And members of many groups resist assimilation, and justly so. It’s a risible concept, especially when it means “Try as hard as you can to be like middle-class white people.”


Ok … yes I’ll edit. I see what you mean, and where I was wrong.