An Offensive Article About Chicago

I love Chicago and consider it the best – by far – city of all the cities in the US that I have ever visited. It is a great dream of mine to live there one day. This is why I didn’t appreciate Robert Knight’s article in The Washington Times that gives a horrifying (and might I add completely untrue) picture of my favorite city.

However, my self-righteous indignation over the unfair criticism of Chicago took a step back after I read the concluding passage of the article:

Chicago just sailed by Los Angeles, long considered the most gang-ridden city, in total gang membership with as many as 150,000 street thugs, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor. It’s a safe bet that not many of those young men bought Father’s Day cards in June. Surveying the social and fiscal damage in Chicago, you might honestly conclude that sworn enemies of the United States could not have done a better job of sowing the seeds of internal chaos [emphasis mine].

I often find the journalistic jargon difficult to understand (here, for example, I failed to realize that David Brooks was actually trying to defend Romney rather than ridicule him.) This is why I don’t want to jump to any conclusions before consulting with my readers.

In the quoted passage, do the words marked in bold-type attempt to insult single mothers as only being capable of raising criminals?  Or is the suggestion here that all criminals (at least in Chicago) are immigrants? Because this is a holiday that many other cultures either don’t celebrate. Or does the journalist try to say that Father’s Day cards are a very basic necessity of life and people who can’t afford them must be extremely poor which is what drives them to the life of crime?

Of course, if we analyze the passage within the larger context of the article, we might conclude that the Big Bad Government provides all inhabitants of Chicago with free Father’s Day cards because people in Chicago are so spoiled by governmental munificence that they expect Governor Pat Quinn to buy, sign and mail their cards for them.

Which interpretation do you think is more likely?

P.S. If you suffer from elevated blood pressure, it might be a good idea for you to avoid reading this article. It is very offensive. The paragraph about charity is especially obnoxious. And the paragraph that comes right after it makes me wonder about the author’s mental health.

39 thoughts on “An Offensive Article About Chicago

  1. “In the quoted passage, do the words marked in bold-type attempt to insult single mothers as only being capable of raising criminals? ”

    Yes, that’s what the author means. He thinks it’s such an obvious “fact” that he doesn’t even need to spell it out. Further, “thugs” is a racially loaded term, so he probably doesn’t just mean single mothers, he means African-American single mothers.

    On a different note, I’ve never been to Chicago, but it sounds like a great city.

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      1. Have you ever heard the term dog whistle? That was a dog whistle.

        Ugh, I just read the article. He blames welfare for class warfare and “the destruction of marriage.”

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  2. Oh, it is Republispeak again, yes. And Chicago has always been a rough town, that is part of its character. Writer should calm down, stop moralizing, and help out if he is so concerned. Last I heard there were parts of Chicago with infant mortality rates higher than in the old South African townships.

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    1. Still, Chicago is alive in the way that St. Louis, for example, isn’t. And I still haven’t found an explanation for that. Chicago is vibrant, it has a face of its own, there are people everywhere. But it isn’t hateful like NYC. And it isn’t for rich people only or snooty like San Francisco.

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      1. I lived near San Francisco for six years. I loved the area, but you’re right — it’s only for rich people who are completely elitist.

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      2. Well, I’m from SF and I’d say it’s pretty blue collar, in spirit and in large parts of town. The Silicon Valley big spenders aren’t even from California!!! And my question would be how you even met the rich — they’re hiding in their own world … I think you’re talking about a certain flashy, imported, nouveau upper middle class. In my grandparents’ day there were certain Boston-like class divisions but nowadays people my age and younger don’t even seem to remember the era.

        New York isn’t hateful, one is just told one should find it so. But then I find Parisians nice, as well. St. Louis I haven’t been to but I want to go, it’s blues country. I think its murder rate is worse than Chicago’s, though; if I remember right it is one of the world’s deadliest cities. Non-vibrant, well it is in Missouri which means it is effectively in the South; Southern cities are not vibrant and feel more than a little dead. Cavernous, cadaverous, tomb-like, I am not sure exactly why it is, but they have that Midwestern heaviness and then got hit by a bomb of some sort in addition, it is something about Southern culture that I do not understand.

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        1. “And my question would be how you even met the rich — they’re hiding in their own world …”

          – Yale. 🙂 Old money people. 🙂 Great folks but from a different planet from the one I live on.

          “St. Louis I haven’t been to but I want to go, it’s blues country.”

          – Do come and visit us! 🙂

          “Cavernous, cadaverous, tomb-like, I am not sure exactly why it is, but they have that Midwestern heaviness and then got hit by a bomb of some sort in addition”

          – That’s exactly how it feels!

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              1. I will have to work on this, it is kind of an easy drive and could be a blues pilgrimage. Here to Greenwood, MS; then Memphis, TN, Then southern IL – St. Louis. Also the train, the City of N.O., goes to Greenwood, then Memphis, then Carbondale. !!!

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  3. If it makes you feel any better, the founder of the Washington Times kicked the bucket this week, and he poured millions of his own money into it to keep the rag from going under, so we may not have to deal with its obscene stupidity for much longer.

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  4. Or it could be code for the US education system has failed these young people so badly that they are illiterate to the extent that they can’t write a greetings card? More likely I think, it refers not to the infant mortality rates in areas with high gang membership, but the adult mortality rate for (especially black) men, gang membership being a pretty high risk occupation? Maybe Father’s Day wreaths are popular?

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    1. “Or it could be code for the US education system has failed these young people so badly that they are illiterate to the extent that they can’t write a greetings card?”

      – I congratulate you with coming up with an explanation I didn’t even think of. You rock!

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  5. It could be a comment on single-parent women. I’d agree that it is about African Americans with the use of the word thug. But I also think that the comment is meant to point out the deadbeat dads — a stereotype of the African American community. Whether the comment successfully pins blame on men or not is debatable. But also there’s no denying that African American men are at a big disadvantage in gang ridden areas. For many, it feels like there is no way out of the gang/drug culture. (Not that I’m African American or male, but from what I’ve read, it feels like destiny is determined for a subset of the community, and at least part of life will include jail time.) In gang communities, women have babies and men abandon them.

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    1. really interesting that you brought up the inevitability of jail time and hopelessness in the gang culture. My response below addresses that with an answer that seems so obvious…its just that the political will to change it will be near impossible.

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  6. “In the quoted passage, do the words marked in bold-type attempt to insult single mothers as only being capable of raising criminals? ”

    I think what he was pointing out is a nearly indisputable point that people raised in single family homes have EXTREMELY disproportionate rates of incarceration. (Here is one such study i found, but I believe there are dozens http://www.gwu.edu/~pad/202/father.pdf … ) It is a long study, but on page 14 demonstrates that even controlling for income/socioeconomic situations children from non mother-father households have crime rates 3-4x that of those with traditional mother-father. I know you often criticize conservatives (and often rightly so) for shunning facts/science. It is nearly an absolute fact that growing up without mother-father situation will increase your chance of committing crime (as an aggregate across society). This is a point that I take for granted and have done a lot of research on so i wanted to establish this first. However, the more relevant argument to me is what can be done about it?

    I think (and please tell me if I’m wrong) one reason you and other people react negatively to this is it seems to imply that the single mothers are at fault. I don’t think that is true or fair at all, because they indeed are the one who have stuck with raising the child (an admirable thing!). A major issue needs to be is why, especially in poor inner cities areas like chicago is the out-of-wedlock rate greather than 70 or 80%? One major issue is there aren’t a lot of good males to marry, with so many in gangs and so many in prison.

    This is where I break radically with most conservatives, and honestly think the most important issue to solving inner-city poverty, crime, dependency, is legalizing drugs and ending the war on drugs. Gangs get the vast majority of their financial resources from the drug trade, and while gangs provide familial structure and a sense of belonging as well, at the end of the day if they can’t earn money they will diminish greatly. We have a very obvious correlation (and ironically related to chicago as well!). Prohibition is the reason Al Capone got so much power with alcohol being made illegal… gangs thrived during prohibition and murders went up. The war on drugs is the only reason substantial gangs can and do exist in a sustainable fashion.

    The other issue in chicago around “good males to marry” is so many have been in prison, or are on probation etc. The often quoted statistic is something like 1 and 3 black males in their 20’s is in prison, probation or parole. Some take this as a sign of “black thuggery”.. NONSENSE. It is an issue of the war on drugs, the resulting gang violence, the over-criminalization of life in the inner city. It robs resources that could be going to education, infrastructure and most importantly robs young males their life prospects, young women eligible people to marry, and young kids of father figures. Its a tragedy.

    Need to run, I think my response is a little rambling.. but I hope it provides insight into the author is HUGELY right in pointing out the issue of single parent parenting, but most importantly what needs to be done to change it and how blaming mothers is the wrong answer.

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  7. After reading the article I could easily see it is politically/socially motivated. I think the highlighted portion could easily be a dig at men who decide not to parent as it could be a dig against single mothers. The truth is, boys who grow up without significant male involvement are much more at risk for gang and violent behaviour. I know this personally. Today is the 25th anniversary of my brothers suicide. Our father died when we were but small children and though my mother did a phenomenal job of raising us she could not undue the damage that his void created. Children(especially boys) thrive in communities where parents and extended families nurture and provide discipline for them. It is not surprising that the communities that dont, have a much higher incidence of gang involvement. The vast majority of boys we knew as kids, who exhibited violent, thug behaviour, all came from homes where the father was distant or gone. By the way, they were also all Caucasian.

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    1. ” I know this personally. Today is the 25th anniversary of my brothers suicide. Our father died when we were but small children and though my mother did a phenomenal job of raising us she could not undue the damage that his void created.”

      – I’me very very sorry for what happened to your brother.

      Was he in a gang?

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      1. He was not in a traditional type gang, in other words, no name or colours displayed. Did he hang around with other males that partook in violent criminal behaviour? Yes. Thank you for your sympathy but considering he suffered from mental illness and our society tends to treat them like pariah’s, I hope he is better off.

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      1. Which correlation are you talking about? Violence behavior and gang involvement and growing up in a single-parent home are highly correlted.. and in this case that is the logical causation. What else could you possibly say contributes to the ridiculously higher crime rates in these situations? I mean, even anecdoteally people say the importance of a strong male figure is important… and the facts back it up..

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        1. “Violence behavior and gang involvement and growing up in a single-parent home are highly correlted.. and in this case that is the logical causation. What else could you possibly say contributes to the ridiculously higher crime rates in these situations? I mean, even anecdoteally people say the importance of a strong male figure is important… and the facts back it up..”

          – No, they don’t, actually. I’ll just give one small example.

          My country suffered enormously in WWII. The loss of life was huge. Of course, a lot more men died than women. As a result, the generation of post-war children grew up without fathers. According to your theory, when these children grew up, there should have been a flare-up of gang violence in the country. But there wasn’t anything of the kind.

          I have blogged a lot about the importance of fathers. However, the idea that an absent father somehow leads to a life of crime is preposterous.

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      2. I think in todays day and age(in the west) it is more than just the absence of fathers. I think communities tend to shy away from being communal. After WW11 there may have been shortages of men but the community in general would pick up the slack. In more individualistic societies that becomes less prevalent. So the absence of a father becomes even more problematic. When children become disenfranchised they become much more vulnerable to the predators. Gangs are one that look for these type of children. Pedophiles do also. I wonder if Eastern Europe might be starting to see this too. Afterall some of the nastiest, sadistic gangs come from there. There are few in the criminal world who want to deal with the Chechen or Russian gangs.

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        1. ” I wonder if Eastern Europe might be starting to see this too. Afterall some of the nastiest, sadistic gangs come from there. There are few in the criminal world who want to deal with the Chechen or Russian gangs.”

          – You are absolutely right (although Chechnya is not a European country.) This is especially significant given that Chechen fathers never leave their children (children stay with fathers in case of divorce) and the communal existence in Chechnya always was and still is prevalent and highly valued. In Russian, too, the community is much stronger than in the US. It’s strong to the point of being smothering, I’d say.

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  8. It is a jab at single mothers (unspoken assumption: the sluts) and at the presumably irresponsible absent fathers.

    David Brooks is a pseudo-“Everyman (white)” in his writings, making lots of sneering remarks about “latte liberals” and “upper West side New Yorkers” (traditionally an affordable liberal and/or artsy neighborhood in the 1970s and early 1980s, later further gentrified) or “upper East side New Yorkers” (always quite wealthy) and “media people” who don’t know “The Real America”Tm as well as he does. Brooks claims to speak for “Real Americans”Tm , but I would bet that he lives in a quite pricey Manhattan neighborhood next to the people he claims are clueless liberals.

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    1. “Brooks claims to speak for “Real Americans”Tm , but I would bet that he lives in a quite pricey Manhattan neighborhood next to the people he claims are clueless liberals.”

      – This is the kind of person that I especially despise.

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  9. Clarissa 10:26
    If there was a flare up of gang violence in the Soviet Union after WW2, would Pravda or Tass have mentioned it? Was there a major drug problem in Soviet Union after WW2? Did the Soviet courts respect Miranda rights or the Fourth Amendment? Didn’t almost all 18 year olds get drafted?
    The point is that we wouldn’t know if there was a flare up of violence in the Soviet Union because of censorship, and even if there wasn’t, there were differences between the Soviet system and the Chicago system that might account for it. (Also Chicago now has a major shortage of cops.)

    An absent father doesn’t invariably lead to a life of crime, but combined with other factors it will push in that direction. Generally mothers are often at a loss in handling rebellious teenage boys. Fathers can give economic and emotional stability.

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    1. “If there was a flare up of gang violence in the Soviet Union after WW2, would Pravda or Tass have mentioned it”

      – Not after WWII but about 20 years after it. And yes, of course, it would. Gang violence was the only kind of crime that it was permissible to explore massively in pop culture. An d actually, there was a HUGE flare-up in gang violence during WWII and right after it. Curiously, more people in that generation had fathers than those of 20years later and who did not turn massively to gangs.

      “Was there a major drug problem in Soviet Union after WW2”

      – No, drugs became a huge problem in the 1980s.

      “Did the Soviet courts respect Miranda rights or the Fourth Amendment?”

      – Fourth Amendment to what? The US Constitution? It annoys me when people pretend to be dumb for some weird reason.

      “Fathers can give economic and emotional stability.”

      -Or the opposite.

      I’m not sure what the point of your comment is. That the absence of a father per se does not lead to a life of crime? That’s exactly what I’m saying, so what are we arguing about?

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      1. No one said the absence of a father leads to crime.. just that is VASTLY increases the chance of being a criminal…which in America has proven to be true, especially in inner city areas where gangs are prevalent.

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        1. “No one said the absence of a father leads to crime.. just that is VASTLY increases the chance of being a criminal”

          – I have no idea what this journalist said at all because he was being excessively cryptic. 🙂

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  10. Talking about “unwed mothers” and “absent fathers” casts urban poverty/crime as a moral issue instead of an economic/race issue: i.e. if those “thugs” would just stay with their families or if those women would just stop having sex, we wouldn’t have urban crime! It’s a bunch of nonsense. Urban crime and poverty occur due to the segregationist economic and educational policies ingrained deep within American culture and American domestic policy.

    I agree with Matt above that decriminalizing drugs would go a long way towards lessening gang violence, but in my opinion, the REAL solutions lie in education. If we are really and truly concerned about urban poverty and urban crime, we should POUR money into education. Not a little more money. A LOT more money. As I’ve mentioned before I taught in a public urban school before I went for my PhD. The conditions were heartbreaking—far different than any suburban public school I taught at or attended: not enough books or supplies, desks falling apart, overcrowded classrooms, moldy classrooms. I taught English and I couldn’t believe how behind most of the students were in comparison to their peers in white suburban neighborhoods. Conservatives like to blame parents for not “working” with their children but the fault didn’t lie with them. I would speak to countless parents who were concerned with their children’s success and feared for their children’s future. But they could only be of limited help because they themselves were functionally illiterate and had to live in small apartments where their kids didn’t realistically have a quiet place to work and study.

    So, as I suggested above, we should spend on education the same way we spend on the military. Education should be our country’s single biggest expense in my opinion. We should have high-quality, free pre- schooling from the age of 2 on up; all schools should have well stocked, beautiful libraries; all schools should offer free tutoring; schools should have free after school programs that offer students a quiet place to study and complete homework; we should cap classrooms at 18 students; teachers should get paid more (currently teachers in urban schools are paid far less than their suburban counterparts); we should have free and quality music education etc. etc.

    Sorry for the rant. But this is something I really believe. The reason that white suburban students don’t join gangs in large numbers is not because of the “magic” of the nuclear family: it’s because they largely perceive themselves to have options and they are excited for their future. The urban students I interacted with were pessimistic and terrified about their futures. A quality education can turn around this cycle of poverty and crime within a generation. I don’t think it will ever happen because Americans consider education spending wasteful and ‘throwing money” at the problem: it’s much easier to judge the family lives of African Americans.

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  11. – Yale. 🙂 Old money people. 🙂 Great folks but from a different planet from the one I live on.

    Yes, some SF old money types do go to Yale, but those who go to Harvard look down their noses at them, since Yale was so déclassé compared to Harvard back in the day!

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