On Evil in the City

Mark Konkol, putting responsibility where it belongs: 

Emanuel made it clear he was talking about the unidentified shooter who fatally gunned down 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee the night before in an Auburn Gresham alley.

“Whoever did this, there is a special place for them,” the mayor said.

Hell or someplace like it, I suppose the mayor means — where good people wish we could lock up evil and throw away the key.


What if generations of Chicagoans — the majority of voters, the mayors they crowned, the ward bosses who followed orders, the city planners, the policymakers, the red-lining bankers and the conspiring real estate brokers who kept our city segregated, first by ethnicity, then by race and now by economic class, and herded poor descendants of slaves into public housing towers that became killing fields only to tear the towers down and leave entire neighborhoods to suffer in desperation, poverty and hopelessness while rebuilding the city’s center into a monument to the rich — helped create the socioeconomic conditions that fostered the evil we blame for the busted morals of Tyshawn’s killer and folks who protect the shooter by keeping silent?

Economics is a weapon, deadly as a gun.

More efficient, in some ways. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with economics.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with geography. With living here, and not there. With a map.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with home inspections, or the lack thereof. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with absentee landlords, and occupancy violations, and broken boards, and rusty nails.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds when the city doesn’t tear down the derelict buildings or clear the vacant lots. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds by shutting off their heat. Maybe their water, too, if their parents can’t pay. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds by denying food stamp claims.

How many 9-year-olds have died of poverty, over the years?

Do we call that evil?

Or do we talk about choices, and “if they don’t want to live there they should just move,” and “stop snitching” and “they should do this, that or the other thing” instead? Or do we shrug our shoulders, because that’s too much for us to worry about, we who worry about so little? Is that just the cost of living, the way of life we accept for others, so that we may keep this way for ourselves?

Do we talk about selling bling, and pulling up pants, and what Al Sharpton said? Do we make cracks about “the black community” and talk about what we think they think and feel, without asking a single person, without looking at a single picture? Do we scribble nihilistic, sarcastic, nasty things about how they’re not angry enough for us, as if proving themselves to us is what matters to them?  Do we presume to know what matters to them, and presume to know it falls short of our expectations?


That is evil. A thousand thousand glib dismissals, that is evil. To look only to condemn, only to excuse oneself from responsibility, that is evil. That is killing, like a gun.


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