Flash mobs and flash points

07/20/2011 10:00 PM


9 Comments - Add Your Comment

As this column goes to press, the country is focused upon our national financial debt crisis. Failure to cut federal spending, close tax loopholes, and raise the debt ceiling will cause us to slide into a double-dip recession. Or, as the president has called it, economic Armageddon.

Here in Chicago we face an even more frightening social deficit. We are now a multi-cultural city, close to 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino with about 1/20 Asian and other races filling in the gap. Under these circumstances, white supremacy and a wealth “color gap” cannot continue.

The greatest gap is between African Americans and whites. The segregation index for these racial groups is 81, meaning 81 percent of us would have to move to create communities that have the same population mix as the entire city and the metropolitan region.

In Chicago we live separate and unequal. The black unemployment rate is twice that of whites (even as high as the white unemployment is in this recession). In ghettoes, black male unemployment is more than 40 percent. Blacks outnumber whites in jail by staggering numbers and there are more Latinos than whites in jail as well.

These well-known social conditions breed anger and lawlessness. And so we now have black “flash mobs” attacking whites in the Loop, on public beaches along the North Side, as well as throughout the River North and Lakeview neighborhoods.

The term “flash mob” originated when college-aged kids would converge on a spot like Grand Central Station in New York
and do seemingly-impromptu performance art.

But now, the term is being applied to violent groups. For several years, roving groups of black teenagers have attacked folks on the South and West sides of Chicago as far out as Oak Park.

These young folks in gangs and flash mobs are not afraid of the police. They attack and steal quickly — they are gone long before the police arrive. They just move on to another spot for their next attack. The beatings of victims can be brutal.

Special police units have some effect but not much. Many of these folks in gangs and mobs have been to juvenile or adult prison before. They know the drill as well as the police and prosecutors and don’t fear them.

In the long run, we have to provide better education, jobs and hope to quell their anger. In the civil war, Lincoln said that as a nation we couldn’t live half slave and half free.

In Chicago, we can’t live half rich and half poor either, divided by the “color gap.” Particularly, because the color of your skin can predetermine which group you’ll be in, a lot of youth are “mad as hell” and won’t take it anymore. This doesn’t excuse their crimes, but allows us to understand some of the causes which could be eliminated.

The black middle class still suffers violence and criminality even more than whites. They are closer to the angry youth who strike out against anybody. Not enough of us know or care about their plight.

Flash mobs are a manifestation of the flash points of racism and poverty that still persist in 21st century Chicago.

Good policing can help protect us and put real criminals away. But we need to end segregation in housing and jobs, improve education, narrow the wealth gap between rich and poor, and grow the economy for everybody.

We have to lessen desperation and the anger that follows bad education, unemployment and the color gap. Only by eliminating flash points of misery and poverty will we end flash mobs in our own neighborhoods.

Only when we close the social and economic gap in our city and metropolitan region will we avoid our own social Armageddon.

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By Patrick from North Chicago
Posted: 08/22/2011 12:04 PM

The biggest problem with the black community is the fact that 75% of black children are born out of wedlock. The article mentions these social gaps as one of the reasons, but much of it is self-inflicted. There is a disparity of median incomes between whites and blacks, but the difference is much higher when household income is considered. This is due to the fact that many black households only have one parent, and this has a significant impact on a child's future.

By Black Middle Class Leaving from Southside
Posted: 08/18/2011 10:06 PM

You're right, the black middle class live closer to the people that possibly create flash mob activity and we are sick of public nuisance behavior that police try very little about to rid our community of. We we become disappointed due to the lack of police to get a handle on all obscene behavior illegal behavior, we move to the suburbs. If we keep leaving, what will be left is mostly CHA. Would you like the African American portion of Magnet in your diverse schools to be all CHA??

By william from wicker park
Posted: 08/18/2011 8:22 PM

The comments section holds more truth then this partisan, biased, and blind article. Blacks suffer from racism too (recent spate of violent flash mobs across the country?). Why are educated well spoken black men accused of not "acting" black? While racism exists on both sides, employers care more about money!! And they will not choose to employ teenagers/people that speak poorly, show poor work ethic and don't bother to apply. They are in prison and out of school by their own choice.

By Cromulent
Posted: 08/08/2011 10:28 PM

These are just the wages of Obama's America.

By The other JJ
Posted: 07/22/2011 12:28 PM

"We don't need hopeful aspirations, we need specific plans." - "JJ" >>> You mean like the boneheaded idea you came up with a couple of years ago to have South Loop School take over the NTA with "segregated" entrances for both sets of students. That idea blew up in your face and angered the parents at both schools. With "plans" like that, I'll stick with the aspirations.

Posted: 07/22/2011 10:02 AM

"we need to end segregation in houing and jobs, improve education and make the economy work for everyone." Gee that is really profound Dick. America has never been and will never be a utopia. There are structural issues that government will never overcome. CPS has something like 30,000 or more students from homeless families. How do they fix that and educate the children? We don't need hopeful aspirations, we need specific plans.

By question? from west side
Posted: 07/22/2011 8:54 AM

What group has the highest school drop out rate, teen and some-times pre-teen pregnancy rate, and least parental involvement. When those questions get answered and resolved then some of the disparity will go away. Until then, quit playing the victim.

By slew from SL
Posted: 07/21/2011 9:39 AM

Mr. Simpson -- it's all well and good to point out obvious problems, but quite another to offer a workable solution. How do we "provide better education, jobs and hope"? Jobs exist, but apparently not the kind inner city youth would like. Education exists, but only if youth attend every day and work hard to succeed. Hope exists, but only in stable families with parents committed to their children and positive role images. End the rhetoric, point out the root of the problem, and offer solutions.

By Roger from Loop
Posted: 07/21/2011 1:19 AM

So much for personal accountability, Christian beliefs, and community pride. I guess white people need to apologize and give in to the Obama class war-fair and wealth redistribution. In black communities, mega Churches have become political money making institutions, not community places of support.