I came home early one day last week to find my neighbor moving. I was stunned. We are not friends, but we are good neighbors. He and his wife are educators, 30 something, and have two darling daughters ages two and four.
I asked, where are you going? He said, I’ve got to get out of Chicago. Why, I asked. He said, my daughters are at the age where they should be playing in the yard. But I can’t let them play in the yard. We should be going to the park, the playground and the beach. I can’t take them because I am scared. I can’t take it anymore, he said.
He is a high school principal and he told me, I am burying my students. I am returning to school on Mondays checking to see if everybody is there. I am going to teenage funerals. That’s not what I am supposed to do.
He said, last week I made a decision. Chicago is a pretty city, but it is not safe. I got a job offer last week from out of town and we will be gone by the Fourth of July weekend to start a new life in a new city where we will be safe. He made a sudden decision, with resources in front of him and living with the fear Chicago citizens are becoming accustomed to.
The conversation bothered me because he is right. If I were in his shoes, I would strongly consider doing the same. My neighbor’s move comes shortly after Father’s Day weekend, when a three-year-old boy was shot in a car while in his father’s arms. The bullet wound leaves the toddler paralyzed for the rest of his life with a severed spine.
My model neighbor is moving because of the shootings and killings of young people in Chicago. The out of control violence has become overwhelming – it doesn’t matter if you are driving your car on the expressway, taking public transportation, at the beach, walking down the street, riding your bike, or even just sitting in your living room, living in Chicago is becoming a scary game of Russian Roulette, especially for Black people.
Indeed, the scoreboard crime rate makes you think about your children, your family and your job. Is there a safe place? My neighbor said no, but there are “safer” places.
We the people of the city have become immune. The newscasters, with smiling faces, report the crime statistics with no emotion while the Chicago Sun-Times has become a daily crime sheet. We are registering negativity at too many levels with too much frequency. People are taking flight from the city with the beautiful skyline, green parks and scenic lakefront. The city that works isn’t working for all.
I became quite philosophical on a very personal level after the conversation with my neighbor. Do you run from it or do you face the devil in the blue dress and dance, trying to solve the problems that plague our city as we face the realities and consequences of poor city management and bad parenting, poor policing a troubled economy, social engineering and racism.
If I had my way, I would lock all the politicians in a room, similar to what is done when a new Catholic Pope is selected. Solve the problems and you can’t leave the room until we have real solutions.
Balance the damn state budget. Leave the Uber and Lyft drivers alone. They have created a new industry, new jobs and they pick up everybody. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fix what is broken. Don’t let the billion-dollar economic viability of a Lucas Museum leave the city because of 30 elitist people in a group called Friends of the Parks.
Let’s look racism in the eye, heads up. Many of our problems stem from years of racial neglect, as WBEZ writer, Natalie Moore, points out in her new book about the South Side of Chicago. It is racism in too many instances gone disguised.
Traditional long-term businesses are closing, Black businesses. There’s no money for Black entrepreneurs. No loans, no investment money, no philanthropic money – as Black Star Project Executive Director Phil Jackson is on a mission to counter – no seed money for your business to grow in a new economy and a new era, no money to facilitate cash flow for existing businesses.
This is the city where Black business – Black Mecca – once flourished more so than any other city in the nation and now we see the demise of what was a strong vibrant business community in the city that doesn’t work anymore. Change is inevitable. I get that. But damn.
It’s a sad state when the young couples with small children who are productive, contributing citizens feel that they have to leave the city to be safe, afraid to let their children go out and play, too worried about the simple things of life.
I certainly understand my neighbor’s decision, but personally, I choose to stay and fight until it gets right.