The New York Times is a liberal narrative engine. Its articles may seem meandering, but they know exactly what they want to do and where they want to go. But that’s not the case with its “Two Chicagos” article.
The title “In a Soaring Homicide Rate, a Divide in Chicago” is traditional New York Times. The amount of titles the Times has done that focus on a divide is nearly endless. But there’s a sense of confusion and helplessness that fills the article.
The premise seems simple enough. Chicago’s murder rate is high, but it’s primarily confined to minority areas. And then what? The Times has no answer. When poverty or bad housing or high milk prices are confined to minority areas, racism is an easy answer. But how do you address black on black violence? The New York Times can’t do it.
The shooting, on Nov. 26, was one more jarring reminder of just how common killings seem to have grown on the streets of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, where 506 homicides were reported in 2012, a 16 percent increase over the year before, even as the number of killings remained relatively steady or dropped in some cities, including New York.
But the overall rise in killings here blurs another truth: the homicides, most of which the authorities described as gang-against-gang shootings, have not been spread evenly across this city. Instead, they have mostly taken place in neighborhoods west and south of Chicago’s gleaming downtown towers.
More than 80 percent of the city’s homicides took place last year in only about half of Chicago’s 23 police districts, largely on the city’s South and West Sides. The police district that includes parts of the business district downtown reported no killings at all.
And? Having gotten to this point in the traditional disadvantaged narrative, the story can go no further. What does one say about internal violence within a community?
“It’s two different Chicagos,” said the Rev. Corey B. Brooks Sr., the pastor of New Beginnings Church on the South Side, who had led the funeral service for Mr. Holman the day shots rang out, then found himself leading Mr. Miller’s funeral service a week later. The authorities here have described both shootings as gang related. “If something like that had happened at the big cathedral in downtown Chicago or up north at a predominantly white church, it would still be on the news right now, it would be such a major thing going on.”
No doubt, but that’s because shootings are much less likely to happen in white churches, not because of some endemic racism. When violence happens in a dangerous white area, no one pays much attention to it, instead the area eventually becomes a running gag. Habitual violence is ignored regardless of the population.
But surely gun control is the solution.
At Mr. Miller’s funeral in December, a large contingent of Chicago police officers waited outside.
“It’s gotten to the point, unfortunately, where something as significant as a funeral is subject to gang violence, and I can’t even believe that we’re having this conversation,” Garry McCarthy, the police superintendent here, said in an interview. “I’m not willing to gamble that maybe they’re not going to bring their guns this time.”
The Chicago cops can’t keep guns out of a funeral. How much use is trying to keep them out of a city, a state or a country?
In a corner of the church, a friend of Mr. Miller revealed text messages he had sent to her during Mr. Holman’s funeral, minutes before he was shot: “dis preacher like he talkin straight to me,” one of the messages read. “He talkin bout hurts and pain. I cant run from the pain cause its gone hurt me worse if I’m by myself because I gotta think about everything.” In tears, she recalled how she had replied to the texts with questions, but Mr. Miller never responded.
And the New York Times has no answers to its own questions either. The inner city represents the failure of a century of liberalism to reform and uplift. And once we get past the usual nods to racism, there’s nothing more to say about the reality of life there. Or at least nothing that the ideology responsible for the failures would like to discuss.