Challenging the myth of Chicago as warzone

As soon as I found out I would be spending a year in Chicago and started to share that news with friends and family, the concerned comments began rolling in. Both covertly and overtly, well-meaning people would question how safe I would be moving to Chicago by myself. Even once I moved here, I continued to encounter this concern from other Chicago residents when I would tell them what neighborhood I live in. A quick Google search reveals startling crime statistics and discussion boards as to whether or not East Garfield Park is really “safe.” The consensus seems to be that it’s better to just give that neighborhood a miss, especially at night (I believe people may be confusing perceived criminals with vampires here).

Along with Austin (where I work), Englewood, Auburn Gresham and other high crime areas, reducing these locations and this city merely to a “war zone” with “people being shot left and right” (looking at you, 45) completely ignores the context of why and how the current situation came to be. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not dodging bullets every time I walk out the front door. In all honesty, the single biggest threat to my personal safety are the stairs in my house here, but that’s more a factor of my own natural gracefulness, not the city I live in.

But let’s put our sociologist hats on for a moment and look critically at Chicago.  Continue reading

Activism as Christian Practice

Since moving to Chicago, I’ve participated in many marches and rallies downtown to raise awareness of various causes and show solidarity with minority groups. I’ve also called, emailed, written to, and faxed my representatives back home in Texas about issues near and dear to my heart. I’ve shared many of this efforts on Facebook, with most responses showing support for my efforts. However, there’s also some who believe that it’s a waste of my time to try and challenge my representatives to be better at actually representing ALL of their constituents. Basically the mindset boils down to the fact that they believe what I’m doing isn’t going to make a difference, and that I should just accept the status quo. Continue reading