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Chicago Tribune and coverage gun violence

The Chicago Tribune reports that two men were shot in Wicker Park last night. They are two of seven shooting victims city-wide. These two men, however, warranted a separate slideshow, titled, "On the Street: Two wounded... in unlikely locale", and a second slideshow of photos from the scene. The other victims, who were shot on the south and west sides, were included only in what I call the daily shooting round-up, which generally includes the scene of the crime, the victim's age, and the outcome - whether they were killed or taken to a particular hospital for treatment.

For those of you not familiar with Chicago neighborhoods, Wicker Park is on the northwest side. It used to be, as one of my friends who grew up in Chicago says, "the place where junkies would go to get heroin." In short, it was a bad neighborhood. It began gentrifying in the 1990s and is now fully gentrified. The crowds are a mix of the hipsters who came during the gentrification who have stayed, young kids straight of Big 10 schools, and families who make enough money to afford real estate. (I recently read that Wicker Park is in the top 5 most expensive neighborhoods in the city.) So, it's no longer a bad neighborhood.

The shooting occured in the actual park. During the daytime, there are farmers markets and baseball games. Across the street from the park is a nail salon and dry cleaner's. Next to that is one of the nation's top cocktail bars, The Violet Hour. Across the street from the Violet Hour and next door to the park is Big Star, a taco joint that is consistently written about in magazine stories that contain the word "foodie." It's about a quarter mile from boutiques that are mentioned in Lucky Magazine.

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I don't know why the shootings in Wicker Park got 2 additional stories, but my guess is that it's because they happened around where white people spend their disposable income. The Tribune made sure to mention that the two men who were shot had known gang affiliations and long criminal records. In other words: Don't worry! They were outliers and this was a fluke! These are not your people!

But they are this neighborhood's people. I lived in Wicker Park last summer when there was a dispute between two gangs and there was a car chase with bullets flying down the alley near my house. A gang member was later shot in the same alley. In a nearby alley, 3 restaurant employees were shot when they caught someone trying to carjack a fellow employee's car. There was a spate of robberies where the perpetrators would dress as utility workers to case homes and determine what times the owners were out of the house. There is broken glass from cars being broken into every day of the week.

This type of coverage bothers me. It sends the message that gun violence isn't the entire city's problem. The Tribune doesn't note the gang affiliation of people on the south and west sides. It appears that we're supposed to assume that because they live in these neighborhoods, they are gang members and deserve to be subjected to this type of violence. They don't. Nobody does. We need for the south side to stop being shorthand for "gang member" because it implies that people don't matter.

[Just a note - yes, I get that two people shooting at each other in Wicker Park on a Friday night is somewhat unusual, but the neighborhood isn't violence-free, as I point out above. That's a perception that needs to be eliminated because everyone, city-wide, should care about the problem we have with gun violence, and people who think it doesn't touch them should be better informed about how close they actually are to it. For example, the shooting in the alley I mention above? I didn't see it mentioned in a Chicago newspaper until several months later. But I saw the cops at the scene and was told that a gang member had been shot.]

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[ETA: not interested in being main-paged, should this catch a Jez author's interest - so please don't! pretty please! I will give you approximately 100000000000000000000 more cute dog photos in exchange & am happy to provide links to stories on Chicago gun violence]

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