Saturday, May 13, 2017
Gangs in middle-class neighborhoods
This is a fascinating and sad account of how gangs have become more prevalent in one specific area of Chicago, the Pill Hill neighborhood so named for the prevalence of doctors and other professionals that used to live there. It is the personal story of one family, from the Great Migration, to entry into the middle-class, to present-day kids fascinated by the thug life. It reminds me a lot of similar trends in Colombia, where sordid gangs and violence are so prevalent in the culture that even middle-class kids are swept up. I guess I understand to some extent--economically comfortable kids in suburbs throughout the US and probably in other parts of the world have long been drawn to the mystique of the criminal life. Witness upscale suburban teens listening to music from the inner city in the 1990s, adopting some of the outward aesthetic styles of gangster rap. The difference is that economic and physical security is much more tenuous in places like Colombia or Chicago's South Side. So kids that may flirt with the thug life in these latter contexts don't have the barrier of affluence or whiteness or geographical remoteness that can shelter the rich kid in Malibu or Iowa or Glenview, Illinois. After a point, the normal, middle-class kid that was just going through a phase begins to look, especially to outsiders, more and more like the "authentic" hard-core guys that are in the life with no exit.