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May 3, 2008 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Blocking the Transmission of Violence. "If gang violence was an infectious disease, how would you stop it? A Chicago epidemiologist thinks he has the answer."
posted by homunculus (73 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another way of handling this would be to quarantine an area, and allow lethal events to accelerate unhampered. Once the "disease" burned through the population, it would leave a core of immune survivors, who could go on and reproduce their less violent genes.
posted by Faze at 3:37 PM on May 3, 2008


That's a great article, homunculus. I saw the article title in the NYT and rolled my eyes, but your post inspired me to actually read it -- it's great.
posted by salvia at 4:04 PM on May 3, 2008


The article points out a better approach to handling social ills than most solutions, which try to either brutishly crush resistance (heavier penalties) or condescendingly educate perpetrators ("Just Say No"). Both of those approaches dehumanize the people involved, treating them like animals or babies. When programs like this deal with aggressors as equals, those involved in gang violence can accept that they're being treated fairly and can back down without losing their dignity.

Of course, we Americans tend to confuse respect with acceptance (or even endorsement), so programs like these face constant criticism. It's nice to see Chicago's legislature is moving to support CeaseFire.
posted by Maxson at 4:24 PM on May 3, 2008


“Punishment doesn’t drive behavior,” he told me. “Copying and modeling and the social expectations of your peers is what drives your behavior.”

Smart--and the efforts of the "interrupters" here seem nothing less than heroic. Let's hope Slutkin's approach continues to pay off.
posted by washburn at 4:32 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great story, great organization. I hope this approach to solving violence problems thrives and spreads.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 4:43 PM on May 3, 2008


well, this is just going to be my .02 about this, and I doubt that it will go over well at all but here it is.

Alex ( the author of this) lives about 5 miles from me. We are members of the same author's group. And I don't care anymore.

I read his first book years ago and truly cried right out loud over the injustice. It was a motivation for me to go back to college, and what I wanted to do most was study the Chicago Housing Authority, and try to find a way to go and "make a difference" in the people who lived there's lives.

I gave up.

I am sick to fucking death of picking up the paper every morning and reading about gang violence. I am sick to fucking death of reading the apologist columnists who feel a need to explain this as part of a culture that I some how am responsible for.

True story. I was doing a thing at the University of Chicago a year or so back, and I got off at the 63rd and Martin Luther King Drive stop. I decide to walk up to the campus, and see what's what. I walk past a buncha kids on a stoop. maybe nine or ten, said hey howyadoin or whatever, I get a few feet away and a rock hits me in the back of my head. I'm wearing a Miles Davis T-shirt for christ sakes. I probably value black culture more than they do. First thought is I should take them bastards by the ear and turn them over to their mother, but then I took a good look at the neighborhood

Beautiful brownstones, what could be a lovely neighborhood with a little loving care. I know there is not a surplus of money there, but jebus.

They stopped throwing rocks after a while, and I felt very weird for weeks after. I really tried to sort out what feelings I had against what those kids might have felt, and I have never come to an understanding with myself about it.

I don't know. My folks didn't show up in this country till 50 years after slavery was done. I didn't do anything to cause their situation, and I don't consciously do anything to further it.

While it pains me to watch the violence in their neighborhood continue, I also want to go grab the mother of the latest kid who got shot outside Crane High because he was wearing a $150 baseball hat and ask her, "How the fuck are you on welfare and your kid is wearing a $150 baseball hat with a working clock in it????"

What is it...empathy fatigue?? I swear I don't hate them, and know in my heart I'm not a racist, but I swear I am just all done caring about it. I have my own mortgage and kids to raise.

I try to get up every morning with a smile on my face and love for my fellow man, but you know what, coupla 15 year-old morons on the south side want to shoot each other over a baseball hat with a clock in it?

Don't you dare come tell me that's my fault.
posted by timsteil at 5:11 PM on May 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Faze's above isn't so much racist as just plain reality-challenged. In Gangsterism in its native state, the baddest gangsters win.

The subject is . . . complex. Here in the Silicon Valley I am struck by the thousands of relatively recent immigrants working tech jobs and wonder what degree of policy changes (what, where, and when) would have been required for these well-paying middle-class jobs to be filled by native-born citizens.
posted by tachikaze at 5:21 PM on May 3, 2008


timsteil, this is your country and collectively and individually we're either part of the solutions or part of the problems . . . it's still your fault.

Unless you buy into the general U of C economic worldview, then nevermind.
posted by tachikaze at 5:25 PM on May 3, 2008


Well, whatever else it is, Faze's comment is a great indication of what a subtle shift in metaphor is involved here.

The old approach, basically, is to treat violence as the symptom of an underlying disease. You can posit lots of causes for that underlying disease (bad morals? bad cough genes?), and lots of means of transmission (poor parenting? video games? miscegenation? cough, cough) and even lots of solutions (education? Jesus? eugenics? cough, shudder). But no matter what, if you buy into the old metaphor, you're stuck dividing the world into two kinds of people: the carriers, who you condemn as diseased even if they've done nothing wrong "yet," and the clean folk, who you maintain can do no wrong at all. It's this division that justifies treating the people of the second kind — the sick, sick people who were born in the wrong culture, the wrong neighborhood, the wrong skin — as second-class citizens.

It's a little like the way people act in zombie movies. If you think there are asymptomatic carriers out there, mixing with the innocent population but bound to kill eventually, then the only reasonable thing to do is to weed out anyone suspicious, "just in case."

The clever move Slutkin is making is to treat violence as the disease itself. If you kill someone, you've succumbed; if not, you haven't; end of story. No speculating about who's got an asymptomatic case and who doesn't. No underclass of "carriers" who can be locked up, ghettoized or mistreated for some unobservable flaw. No "clean" elect who are pure and incapable of sin. No zombie-movie impulse to lock that nice old man out because he might have been infected. If you accept their metaphor, you're forced to admit that anyone's capable of violence under the right circumstances, and that the key is keeping people out of those circumstances.

So, yeah: by calling for the sickos with "violent" genes to be quarantined, Faze is revealing that he hasn't really caught on to what Slutkin is saying. Sadly, I'm afraid there are a lot more people in the world like him, who will hear "violence" and "disease" and think of the old metaphor rather than hearing the new one, and who'll keep on dreaming of the day when the culturally alien and the sigh genetically inferior will be locked up for good.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:34 PM on May 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


And for what it's worth, I've seen a lot of people succumb to the same sort of overwhelmed apathy after a few years in Hyde Park. Living there really rubs your face hard in some of the unpleasant realities that you'd rather avoid.

I don't know what the solution is. There's got to be a middle ground between "blisfully ignorant" and "too depressed to help," but I'm not sure where to find it.

Anyway, cool post. Good article. Lots to think about.

posted by nebulawindphone at 5:39 PM on May 3, 2008


Maybe I'm misreading what Faze said, but it seems to me he might have been abstracting "genes" to something similar to culture in the same way that he used this epidemiologist's abstraction of violence to a disease. While it's a poor metaphor, as the most appropriate like object would have been bacteria, I think its preferable to read it that way so as to avoid construing what he said as trolling. Of course, there's still the matter of his larger point, which I'll avoid discussing until I have the time to watch all the Mad Max movies again.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:39 PM on May 3, 2008


timsteil, this is your country and collectively and individually we're either part of the solutions or part of the problems . . . it's still your fault.

hey tachikaze

right off the bat, that part of the problem/solution thing, that was probably lame before you were even born

Five people shot last weekend, you know why, It was hot. They just issued MP-4 battle rifles to the SWAT teams that are walking my streets right now. Please explain to me a culture that dictates murdering people because it's a nice night.

It's my country you're damn right, and I raised my hand and defended it for years, and I hate to see the city I'm raising my kids in go to shit because of morons who lose their minds because it gets over 70 degrees.


just sayin
posted by timsteil at 5:49 PM on May 3, 2008


Another way of handling this would be to quarantine an area, and allow lethal events to accelerate unhampered.

uh, faze, we've been doing that - it doesn't work

what they're doing might work - frankly, there comes a point where people have to take responsibility for their own environment, especially when the efforts of society at large are resented and resisted - the police aren't going to change it, the justice system isn't going to change it, it's going to have to come from the bottom up
posted by pyramid termite at 5:55 PM on May 3, 2008


And for what it's worth, I've seen a lot of people succumb to the same sort of overwhelmed apathy after a few years in Hyde Park. Living there really rubs your face hard in some of the unpleasant realities that you'd rather avoid.

amen
posted by timsteil at 5:59 PM on May 3, 2008


The Ceasefire stickers on the walls in my neighborhood are just a grim reminder that someone just died. Everything chills out for a day or two and then the revenge killing happens. Then we get more stickers. It's like the yellow ribbon magnets on the back of the SUVs. Nice statement but it really doesn't change anything. Like Iraq, the killing continues. No symbol on your bumber or on a telephone pole is going to change that.

Also, you really think the people Ceasefire is recruiting are "former" gang members?

2007
"An outreach worker for CeaseFire, a Chicago-based group that tries to curb gang conflicts and stop shootings, was arrested over the weekend after an AK-47, a handgun, live marijuana plants and drug paraphernalia were allegedly found in his home, police said.

Louie Velasquez, 23, of the 3400 block of West 37th Place had been working with the program for about four months, said Gary Slutkin, founder of the program. After the organization learned of his arrest, Velasquez was fired, he said.

Velasquez was alone in the home when he was arrested about 10 p.m. Saturday and charged with cannabis production, owning a firearm and ammunition without a valid firearm owner's identification card, police said. Police said he had boxes of ammunition, sun lamps, a loaded .38-caliber revolver and gang paraphernalia, in addition to CeaseFire pamphlets and T-shirts."

Where?
Four blocks from my house.

The bangers know it's a joke. They lay low off a week after the Ceasefire workers show up and then... It's back to business as usual. The city plays with the numbers to show that crime goes down in the districts that Ceasefire is most active. Check out Second City Cop sometime and do a search on Ceasefire. You'll get a better prospective of what's really happening in Chicago.

This summer we have swat teams patrolling neighborhoods that Ceasefire is active in. I have two cousins that are CPD. I hear it from them directly. Ceasefire is a cute idea that isn't reality based. You're dealing with an entire population of people who are poor, unable to find work and have been subjected to the likes of John Burge and his cronies for decades. You think the first week of warm weather in Chicago was bad (for shootings). You haven't seen anything yet. This summer is going to be nuts.

I applaud Ceasefire for trying to do something. But this isn't a solution to the absolute clusterfuck that's been brewing in Chicago for years now.

These shootings. It's not a disease. It's a symptom of decades of abuse.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:21 PM on May 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


And for what it's worth, I've seen a lot of people succumb to the same sort of overwhelmed apathy after a few years in Hyde Park. Living there really rubs your face hard in some of the unpleasant realities that you'd rather avoid.

Wow, so it wasn't just me. I lived in hp for 10 years. I feel quite lucky, b/c I got accosted, rocks thrown at me (is that a hp specialty?), jumped and knives pulled and groups of teens threatening but never getting anything (thank you power of words). But I don't know how many friends faried worse. Several female friends raped, one on fucking campus, several jumped, a few murdered, one by cops, more by gangs, stick up kids, one severe injustice to someone I knew personally after another, and recently, a friend getting home invaded, almost shot, but when he managed to fight his way out, find police with his head bleeding, they arrested him on marijuana charges, no search for the home invader... and more.

I arrived as a stupid naive non-hating kid and found myself more racist, more hopeless, more disgusted than almost anyone I'd known. I'd ask my black friends, my white friends and alwasy get the same laugh.. especially from those who grew up in the area. The city is hard, the southside is hard and life is fucking hard to live there. But I met amazing dedicated people. people who wake up and make their effort despite and thousand demons out to destroy everything beautiful and sensible. Eventually, I lost the anger and hate, partly because they are useless, mostly because of those individuals just mentioned, and I and realized little by little what differences matter and what completely senseless bullshit shouldn't matter enough to quit trying.

So timstell: give up. Fuck it. Nothing changes, they deserve it, etc. I know you'll come around because your apathy doesn't sound so hopeless yet (see raze) . If not, you'll get out, get high and have some intense fucking memories to forget. So in short, I got nothing, but lots of empathy. Fatiguing amounts in fact. And no, despite my moniker, this is not sarcasm.
posted by sarcasman at 6:22 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm misreading what Faze said, but it seems to me he might have been abstracting "genes" to something similar to culture in the same way that he used this epidemiologist's abstraction of violence to a disease.

I'm not sure that I'll ever understand the ways in which Americans subtly encode their anxieties and fears about race in their discourse. I didn't detect anything racist in Faze's comment at all. timsteil's comment is explicitly seeking to link violence to race -- specifically, to African Americans -- as seen in his comment about how he isn't responsible for slavery, so a couple of dimwitted kids shouldn't be throwing rocks at him as he walk around in his Miles Davis t-shirt. Yet timsteil gets a free pass?

Is there something I'm not getting here? How does the problem of delinquent kids have anything to do with slavery? Who is it that's blaming timsteil for the gang shootings in Chicago?

That said, I've lived in high crime areas as well. When I could afford to move out, I did. It's a pain in the arse trying to deal with raising kids and worrying about whether your apartment has been broken into every time you go out, or having to run a gauntlet of muggers, determined to 'tax' you for any money that you happen to be carrying. So I understand timsteil's exasperation in this regard. I'm just not sure what it has to do with race?

Unless, you happen to subscribe to my pal Andy's thesis. Andy believes that black people pose an epidemiological problem of their very own. Other races arrive in a community and make a contribution in terms of culture or skills that they bring with them. When it comes to black people though, he claims that not only do they not contribute, they actually render those areas uninhabitable, dragging down the area with high crime levels, violence, drug dealing, a refusal to work, etc. According to Andy, black people are stupid, lazy, violent, uneducable, short sighted, believe the world owes them a living, etc. etc. etc.

Now, Andy is definitely a racist. He's happy to admit to being that way. But I'm not seeing an awful lot of difference between Andy's thesis and timsteil's characterization of this issue?

The clever move Slutkin is making is to treat violence as the disease itself. If you kill someone, you've succumbed; if not, you haven't; end of story.

This doesn't seem that clever to me. Violence is a continuum, and killing people is just the extreme of the continuum. You can have succumbed to this particular disease long before you reach that terminal stage.

I read of a very interesting piece of law enforcement work recently that was somewhat similar to this insofar as police where mobilizing communities to participate in enforcement. When a kid gets arrested for engaging in gang activity, they're hauled up in front of those people in that community who's views matter to them. They're expected to attend an early morning hearing within their community. Participants will be mothers, grandparents, teachers, people from the church, etc. If you're late or you don't show, you go to jail. However, provided these people are prepared to stand up and vouch for the kid, he gets a second chance, but it's conditional on his understanding that he owes his liberty to those community members who stood up on his behalf, and should he be arrested again, not only is he letting all these good people down, he's going away.

This seemed to be having good outcomes.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:24 PM on May 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


tachikaze: Here in the Silicon Valley I am struck by the thousands of relatively recent immigrants working tech jobs [...] timsteil, this is your country and collectively and individually we're either part of the solutions or part of the problems . . . it's still your fault.

That's a rather strong statement of communal accountability from someone living in one of the most rarefied, insulated atmospheres on the planet. In fact, with such strong beliefs, I'd expect that you're not at all satisfied in making online exhortations from a safe distance. I'd bet you're just itching to teach basic math in a Tri-State ghetto. Right?
posted by kid ichorous at 6:25 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


I guess, timsteil, I feel like this: people do bad things. In part, it's because they come from a bad context. We can do things to ameliorate the bad context-- the actions of Dr. Slutkin, things to make the economy grow and the incomes of the poorest rise, crime policies that have been proven to reduce crime, policing that doesn't sour communities on the concept of government-meted justice. (The quotes in that article from the Chicago and Baltimore police commissioner and superintendent are very encouraging).

I don't blame you for empathy fatigue.

I would say that I don't see why your Miles Davis shirt is relevant. Our brains are wired to stereotype, and I think it's a key part of morality to resist thinking and doing the bad stuff our brains tell us to do-- like transmitting violence when all you see is crime in the city. (Being white, I like Mos Def).

Don't you dare come tell me that's my fault.

Well, who the hell cares. I don't think it's your fault. Maybe someone else does, but the hell with them, they're not trying to solve any problems.

I confronted a black guy who broke into my house a few months back, which wasn't necessarily the most fun thing ever. Someone else, who was almost certainly black given the demographics here, saw fit to break my car window to try and steal stuff about a month ago. But I've met loads of other black people who do good things, great things, every day in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

If you can't chalk up skinheads or the mafia or the music of Creed to white culture, then you can't chalk up crime or rock-tossing to black culture.

This is not to say that there is lots of stuff about the culture of he South Side of Chicago that is seriously messed up.

I've come to think that most religious traditions teach the golden rule. But for the grace of God, I am a ten year old surrounded by a bunch of people who think it's great fun to throw rocks at people. Or in this situation described in the article:
At that point, Frederick’s sister arrived. She explained that she was bringing up her brother. She was 18.

“He just wants to go to parties, parties, parties,” she complained. “But it’s too dangerous.” She started to cry.
Things will not be perfect on the South Side in five years. But there are things we can do that makes things better. It seems like CeaseFire is part of that.

As to the article, it's social pressure that explains a great deal of how humans act. That's hard for me, a loner nerd intellectual type, to get my mind around. It's not moralizing-- or demonizing-- from afar that's going to change anything.

Bighappyfunhouse-- if the people from NU and JHU are to be believed, the numbers tell a different story. Though, as you point out, the CeaseFire program has some bad apples in it.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:32 PM on May 3, 2008


I'm not sure that I'll ever understand the ways in which Americans subtly encode their anxieties and fears about race in their discourse.

A few important observations that I think might not be obvious to non-Americans (I don't mean to be condescending, and you might already know more about all these issues than I do):
1) Violent crime in this country is committed disproportionately by young, poor, black men. People vary tremendously (as you might expect) in their explanations and understanding of this problem, but the central divide is between people who feel that public policy ought to be color-blind in order to redress social ills versus people who think race and historical inter-racial problems should be taken into account in making policy. This is sort of a subset of the debate over how much income redistribution we want government to do because it helps define the criteria employed.
2) Gang membership (as in this article) is also far more prevalent among blacks than whites, as least in percentage terms and visibility - though Hispanic gangs like MS-13 have an increasing presence in this country, which brings them into conflict with not only law enforcement and polite society but other gangs.

The way this plays out in the present case is an uneasy tension between acknowledging that gang violence is overwhelmingly likely to both involve minorities and hurt minorities versus (most) public figures' strenuously avoidance of saying anything negative about other cultures while in the public spotlight.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:36 PM on May 3, 2008


timsteil's comment is explicitly seeking to link violence to race -- specifically, to African Americans

Violent crime in the United States is linked with race in the United States; correlated with it, to be precise. Most would argue that this has to do with the disadvantaged socio-economic position many African-Americans find themselves in combined with some amount of self-destructive cultural baggage in the inner cities. So you can't de-link violence and crime in the united states with the lingering aftereffects of centuries of slavery and racial oppression.

Now, figuring out exactly how much of that violence is due to afteraffects of slavery and racial oppression along with current racism and how much is due to self destructive cultural issues in the inner cities is an absolute minefield. I'm not sure it can even be studied properly given how much of a minefield it is.
posted by Justinian at 6:38 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ok, I'm totally confused. Am I the only person here who's lived in Hyde Park and not been assaulted, mugged, or become bitter and miserable? What's more, I don't even really see it as a site of terrible urban dysfunction. Nobody ever threw a rock at me. I have walked all over the neighborhood and surrounding areas without incident. What gives? I thought HP was famous for being home to sanctimonious liberals, not to people who assert that they have a right to be racist because they've lived on the mean streets. That just seems bizarre to me.
posted by craichead at 6:48 PM on May 3, 2008


The U of C is an amazing area. Sadly, many students are not too street smart when they arrive. I will not justify getting hit in the head with a rock by some folks that I said hello to, but the subtext of the "Miles Davis" shirt comment said it all. Perhaps in other places, with other youth, signs and symbols of cultural appreciation work differently.

I worked with a group of West Point cadets, years ago, who volunteered in Chicago, at schools and in community centers in poor areas. I asked them: "How would you solve the problems that these children face?" "Take them away from their families and start again," said one cadet. "They have no chance of success because their families are broken," said another. It was a gloomy assessment but was framed by the things that they had seen and experienced. I still don't know the answer.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:52 PM on May 3, 2008


If you want to do trench level work in these neighborhoods you need to be willing to deal with a lot more than some kids throwing rocks at you. I've been shot at, had to de-escalate explosive situations where violence could erupt at any minute -- including my being physically assaulted, walked through crowds of project kids taunting me, been shadowed by local drug gangs while working on the streets, gone into crackhouses looking for missing children. Welcome to the front lines! Why do you think most agencies that do this kind of work turn over almost their entire staff each year?

And yeah, 63rd and King ain't so hot, at least it wasn't when we used to cop dope down there when I was an undergrad at the U of C circa 1994.
posted by The Straightener at 7:20 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I swear I don't hate them, and know in my heart I'm not a racist

Based on what you've written here, when the chips are down, you're more than willing to see "them" as the other, as inhuman animals and yourself as something better. I'd call you human, but don't take it as compliment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


An epidemiological approach to violence is better than a tough-love approach, but it is not without its flaws (I think this is what Faze was trying to point out through hyperbole). Perhaps the true cause of outrageous behavior among young black men is an absence of father figures (caused by a racist and overzealous criminal justice system), and the cause of gangsterism is a rejectionist reaction to a (white) justice system that has not served the local community at all. Any approach that does not seek to ameliorate these underlying causes is just putting a band-aid on a festering flesh wound.
posted by sandking at 7:41 PM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


True story. I was doing a thing at the University of Chicago a year or so back, and I got off at the 63rd and Martin Luther King Drive stop. I decide to walk up to the campus, and see what's what. I walk past a buncha kids on a stoop. maybe nine or ten, said hey howyadoin or whatever, I get a few feet away and a rock hits me in the back of my head. I'm wearing a Miles Davis T-shirt for christ sakes.

So let me get this straight, you went to U of C and decided to walk through to see "what's what" in your Miles Davis shirt, like it is a tourist attraction and you are trying to make a statement about your affiliation with black culture, strolling by, saying hello to a bunch of people just chilling like you know them or are part of their community?

I hate to say this, since their actions are ridiculously rude no matter what neighbourhood you are walking through, and it sounds like you have invested a lot into trying to ameliorate the situation, but ask yourself this: would they have thrown rocks at you if you were just wearing jeans and a plain white t-shirt and you just walked by without saying anything?

You may just be a friendly guy, and you may say hi to any group of people just hanging out of an afternoon or evening, but lets look at a similar situation. A bunch of teens with dyed mohawks and punk t-shirts are hanging out at a skatepark on a sunday afternoon, and you, likely a 30-something somewhat square looking dude, strolls by with a bad religion/ramones/whatever shirt on and says hi to them. Them tossing a stone at your skull would be a definite possibility, and that isn't a matter of race, or even of them being part of a particular subculture. It is more a product of you being an obvious tourist, and not only trying to prove something to yourself, but trying to involve them in whatever it is you are trying to prove. People, regardless of race can pick up on that stuff.

Sometimes stones get thrown, sometimes it is about injustice, sometimes it is about something a whole lot simpler.
posted by paradoxflow at 8:08 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


So timstell: give up. Fuck it. Nothing changes, they deserve it, etc. I know you'll come around because your apathy doesn't sound so hopeless yet (see raze) . If not, you'll get out, get high and have some intense fucking memories to forget.

You know what., there is nothing more in my life that I would love, than to roll up a big fat stinking one, and go have a true honest conversation about it all. Seriously.
posted by timsteil at 8:09 PM on May 3, 2008


Sometimes stones get thrown, sometimes it is about injustice, sometimes it is about something a whole lot simpler.

And it is ALWAYS assault. If they made fun of him for looking like a douche trying to be black, that's one thing. But you don't fucking throw rocks at people. Good job condemning someone for being goofy instead of condemning people for trying to injure him.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:18 PM on May 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's weird to me how this became about race and socioeconomics. That is such a far fall from the human-centered approach described in the article. The article has people struggling with questions like "what might make Joe, specifically Joe, decide not to go attack someone?" It's about anger as an emotion (understandable, spread by previous violence), and violence as a behavior (induced by peer expectations, spreading more anger and therefore violence). And it's getting humans to creatively intervene in between the anger and the violence to stop the spread.

I'd love to see the violence interrupters (or some ex-frat-boy version of them) come visit the White House and Congress. "No, you don't have to bomb their country just because one person at the embassy got shot. That was just some crazy fluke gunman. C'mon, listen to your wife. She wants to go out tonight, not watch you ordering air strikes..."
posted by salvia at 8:28 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


So let me get this straight, you went to U of C and decided to walk through to see "what's what" in your Miles Davis shirt, like it is a tourist attraction and you are trying to make a statement about your affiliation with black culture, strolling by, saying hello to a bunch of people just chilling like you know them or are part of their community?

*throws rocks at paradoxflow, flicks lighter to burn up straw man*
posted by pyramid termite at 8:35 PM on May 3, 2008


Isn't my MetaFilter t-shirt supposed to give me immunity to that kind of snark?
posted by paradoxflow at 8:41 PM on May 3, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'd bet you're just itching to teach basic math in a Tri-State ghetto. Right?

Part of me is, yes, but right now: Fuck no, so I'm presently part of the problem too. The most I'm willing to do at the moment is to vote for a more liberal and enlightened government, even if said governance goes against my personal interests (eg. Obama's FICA cap raise will hit me straight in the nuts).

The issues are generational in size and therefore the solutions will be generational in scale too.

Empathy fatigue -- admitting failure -- isn't an option if you're a true patriot.
posted by tachikaze at 8:47 PM on May 3, 2008


You know, it seems to me that this is as much, if not more about gender than it is about race. The problem, to a large extent, is codes of masculine behavior and masculine honor, for lack of a better term. Part of what the interrupters do is provide alternative ways of thinking about masculinity. Instead of "a real man would avenge his nephew," they convince the guy to think "a real man would respect his family and honor his brother's wish that there not be any more violence."
posted by craichead at 8:57 PM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I will say that I never went out on foot down to the 60s and King by myself when I was a young drug addict who had by that point pretty much failed out of the U of C. We crewed up with the Street Wise guys (do they still sell that?) who lurked around campus and were actually super kind and very protective of us. There was a wizened oldhead named Gene Ali who took us out on dope runs, as long as the dealers saw him with us everything was cool, though the Robert Taylor Homes were dicey no matter what.

That was my experience in Philly, too, I always hooked up with an old rock head who would cop for me in exchange for a ride. Cars are real currency to that level of nickel and dime street addict. I would NEVER get out on foot and walk around the Badlands at night on my own, shit back in the early 90s it was so off the chain that there would be dudes openly brandishing automatic weapons on either side of the door to the bodega where they were selling bags. You think a 20 year old white kid is going to be allowed to just stroll in there like, "Hey, you got those Homicide bags, I heard it's the shit!" As long as you were with somebody who was clearly from the neighborhood you were a lot less likely to get a gun stuck in your face so there was a real incentive to find a running partner.

The social worker experience is completely different, it's generally clear to the dealers that you're not there buying. Honestly, a lot of the risk in walking into the Zone on foot is getting jacked by other addicts; it's clear to them too that you as a social worker are not part of the game and besides nobody's entirely sure if you're a cop or not which is an asset. The high risk situations like the time I got caught in a crossfire was a wrong time/wrong place kind of thing that was completely beyond my control and the others were situations I was compelled to insert myself into as a part of my job, that I would have gone out of my way to avoid otherwise.

You learn to navigate the real off the map neighborhoods safely over time, but you really shouldn't just walk into a known high crime/high drug traffic neighborhood just to see what it's like. You know what it's like? Really bad, really dangerous and you can totally get for real, for real fucked up in finding out.
posted by The Straightener at 9:05 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Based on what you've written here, when the chips are down, you're more than willing to see "them" as the other, as inhuman animals and yourself as something better. I'd call you human, but don't take it as compliment.

Flagged. Personal attacks are unlikely to produce enlightenment.
posted by washburn at 9:20 PM on May 3, 2008


This intervention is a good way to address short-term flareups, one of the first I've seen to address the issue. I've spent most of my time learning about DC and its environs, so I'm not too familiar with Chicago's specifics. From the stuff I've been reading, though, the current trend in funding, research, and programming is a much more long-viewed one.

I had a prof last semester working on a harm reduction/protective factor program in a Latin American community. It has tons of great features- homework help and counseling, family therapy, after school activities, and community building. After a couple years, the program's going to have a great impact on the kids and community, but it just doesn't have the kind of resources or perspective to do the interruptions CeaseFire coordinates.

So of course CF is a band-aid program, but none of the other interventions are operating with this kind of immediacy. It looks a lot more attractive when you see it more as a component within a larger system of aid.
posted by The White Hat at 10:23 PM on May 3, 2008


These shootings. It's not a disease. It's a symptom of decades of abuse.

As a citizen of a country that isn't awash with firearms: it's a totally unsurprising consequence of having a country awash with firearms.

When guns are easily accessible to hotheaded young men, they will shoot each other with them. Every country has lots of violent young fuckwits, mine perhaps more than most, but the US is among the few that gives them easy access to guns.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:46 PM on May 3, 2008


"So you want to put another thought in his head. It turns out talking about family is what really makes a difference.” Slutkin didn’t take this notion to the interrupters; he learned it from them.

When a kid gets arrested for engaging in gang activity, they're hauled up in front of those people in that community who's views matter to them. They're expected to attend an early morning hearing within their community. Participants will be mothers, grandparents, teachers, people from the church, etc. If you're late or you don't show, you go to jail. However, provided these people are prepared to stand up and vouch for the kid, he gets a second chance, but it's conditional on his understanding that he owes his liberty to those community members who stood up on his behalf, and should he be arrested again, not only is he letting all these good people down, he's going away.

Compare collective efficacy.

Dr. Earls and his colleagues argue that the most important influence on a neighborhood's crime rate is neighbors' willingness to act, when needed, for one another's benefit, and particularly for the benefit of one another's children. And they present compelling evidence to back up their argument.

Will a group of local teenagers hanging out on the corner be allowed to intimidate passers-by, or will they be dispersed and their parents called? Will a vacant lot become a breeding ground for rats and drug dealers, or will it be transformed into a community garden?

Such decisions, Dr. Earls has shown, exert a power over a neighborhood's crime rate strong enough to overcome the far better known influences of race, income, family and individual temperament.

posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on May 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


I read of a very interesting piece of law enforcement work recently that was somewhat similar to this insofar as police where mobilizing communities to participate in enforcement. When a kid gets arrested for engaging in gang activity, they're hauled up in front of those people in that community who's views matter to them.

That sounds like a very fucking civilized idea indeed. The whole point of jail and the justice system is to impress upon someone how their actions affect the community. Something like that brings justice back to the grassroots, which seems like a great idea. As someone else said in another thread, Catholics and Jews see crime slightly differently.. it's not how your actions affect the community, it's how they affect your mother. And while I know that comment was made with tongue placed very firmly in cheek, it has a certain amount of truth to it. Even the most resolute of gangbangers, it would seem, get mighty pissed off if you insult their mother.

That being said, I don't know how we address this endless cycle of violence. Up here, it's nothing like it is in urban areas in the States--hell, in Toronto we get all freaked out when a few dozen people are killed in a year. In some cities in the States, that's barely the number in a couple of months. It's heartbreaking. Anyway, point being.. I'm not proposing any solutions because I have none. Part of me wonders whether, as a (relatively) privileged white guy, I can actually propose solutions that address the violence in what are--let's be honest--predominantly African-American (and I guess Hispanic?) neighbourhoods in the USA without being part of the white-majority-problem.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:36 AM on May 4, 2008


Flagged. Personal attacks are unlikely to produce enlightenment.

Why is it that the angry response to blatant racism and hypocrisy offends you but not the racism itself? I for one was not "enlightened" by timsteil's racist diatribe. It certainly felt like a personal attack to me. He took something some jerk kid did and extrapolated it to a whole group of people based on the color of our skin. I've had to live in these neighborhoods all my life (I live in North Philly), I still see black people as people. Some of us can never just walk away. I'm not saying it's timsteil's responsibility to fix anything except perhaps his own attitude, but such racist sentiments should not go unchallenged, especially as he still manages to convince himself that he has a good heart all while he's writing off an entire group of human beings based on the color of their skin.
posted by Danila at 12:43 AM on May 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yes. I'm sure the conflict resolution skills is what they were lacking. Seriously, this guy seems kind of clueless. Poverty and violence are diseases, and their transmission vectors are the families and cultures that pass them on. The only thing that would stop violence in the inner city would be to take away all of the children immediately and adopt them out to decent families. Nothing else, short of sterilization, is going to stop these people. It doesn't even matter if you save 5% a year. The rest will more than make up for an slack. A few will make it out, but the majority aren't going to when they're born into that kind toxic culture.
posted by snookums at 12:47 AM on May 4, 2008


Then snookums, why not find ways to make the culture non-toxic while not, y'know, trampling all over everyone's human rights?

(And yes. Believe me. I see how there's a conflict between the human rights of everyone there versus the rights of the kids to grow up in decent--which, let's be honest, in North America is often code for "white"--situations.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:02 AM on May 4, 2008


Flagged. Personal attacks are unlikely to produce enlightenment.

But wondering why a Miles Davis shirt won't protect one from attack will produce enlightenment?

Why is it that the angry response to blatant racism and hypocrisy offends you

I don't think my response was angry, merely disgusted. Timsteil posted that he believed he wasn't a racist, the in his heart he just loved his fellow man. But everything else he posted showed he wasn't, that he fallen to one of the oldest self con jobs in history, the ability to see another human as worthless for superficial reasons. That's all too common and happens far too often.

There are numerous crimes which are done almost exclusively by white males. Yet, oddly enough, those are rarely phrased in a racial light. From a sheer numbers point of view, the monsters that caused Enron and the Saving and Loans crisis and the current Real Estate problem were white. I await the handwringing over what's wrong with white culture to produce such profoundly immoral acts, that cast such acts in a racial light, but I think I'm going to be waiting a while, you know?

The only thing that would stop violence in the inner city would be to take away all of the children immediately and adopt them out to decent families.

There are some Australians who would disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:58 AM on May 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Intelligent people can make more difference in technology, science, etc. than teaching basic math. I'm happy if intelligent people get authority over police and programs for controlling violence. Indeed it's obvious from a memetic perspective that epidemiological method should be applied to gang violence. And this program has shown some impressive results.

But I'm also happy with the obvious taxation policy adjustment : If either parent is affiliated with violent regions, then the woman receive free abortions, and both parents must pay significantly more taxes for each male child.

I was struck by the video comment that it's not normal for people to kill people. No sorry but it's completely normal primate behavior for males to kill males. If a group can't join the 20th century, then don't encourage them raise males.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:25 AM on May 4, 2008


I also don't see how timstell's issues are relevant to the CeaseFire program, as he wasn't ever part of the community, or even black.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:29 AM on May 4, 2008


I'm happy if intelligent people get authority over police and programs for controlling violence.

Even if these intelligent people are more motivated by their own self interest rather than community good? Intelligence, something we can't seem to reliably measure, is your sole barometer? Really?

If either parent is affiliated with violent regions, then the woman receive free abortions, and both parents must pay significantly more taxes for each male child.

This is an incredibly short sighted and naive view. You're applying your own comfy logic to a situation you've probably never been in and don't understand, yet seemingly still insist on being correct.

Think about it, you want to tax people from poorer regions for having male children, something they can't control?! Oh right, you want to give them free abortions, which would encourage lack of birth control, since hey "I can get a free abortion" which is going to help the respect of life so much in these violent regions. and what happens if somebody really wants a male child, yet is poor, shall they take up drug dealing to support these extra taxes? Decide to have the child anyway, 'cause having children is not a rational decision and then later resent the child and abuse or kill him? Would the added taxes form a form of hatred, encouraging violence?

The can of worms your solution will open is frightening.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 AM on May 4, 2008


Craichead -- don't forget about the third category of Hyde Park people: people like me, who arrive sanctimonious liberals and depart hard-core conservatives!

However, even as a proud member of that category, I certainly think CeaseFire is a worthy experiment.

The fundamental problem of the ghetto is the ineffective teaching of norms of behavior. If ex-cons can effectively teach an important norm ("let the cops handle your vengeance"), more power to them.
posted by MattD at 5:51 AM on May 4, 2008


craichead: I think that it depends on where and when, both in the day, in the year, and in the decade. Are you counting Prairie and 47th? King and 63rd? Hang out by the high schools after dark? I walked around some places when I first got there that I wouldn't anymore.

Someone I know had the greatest story about HP. She arrived at O'Hare a newly minted graduate student from suburban Iowa sometime in the night. Looking at the CTA map, the obvious thing was to take the green line to 63rd and cottage grove. Arriving at the station, she steps onto the platform and sees two men fighting. Being innocent to the point of immaculate conception, she walks up to them and asks them for directions. They stop fighting, and give her directions. Then they resume fighting.

The major point in the discussion that I don't see is prison. Prison doesn't have to be a lost cause that accomplishes nothing. It is right now, but that's because we're a) willing to spend no money on it beyond bad food and bars and b) we view it as an exercise in punishment.

My understanding is that though all nations obviously have youth crime, especially in areas of no opportunity, in other industrialized nations a more effective penitentiary-rehabilitation system contributes to breaking some of these cultural pathologies.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:24 AM on May 4, 2008


The only thing that would stop violence in the inner city would be to take away all of the children immediately and adopt them out to decent families. Nothing else, short of sterilization, is going to stop these people.
posted by snookums at 3:47 AM on May 4


Canada tried that with the native population (warning: sound).

It was a very bad idea.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2008


A bunch of teens with dyed mohawks and punk t-shirts are hanging out at a skatepark on a sunday afternoon, and you, likely a 30-something somewhat square looking dude, strolls by with a bad religion/ramones/whatever shirt on and says hi to them. Them tossing a stone at your skull would be a definite possibility, and that isn't a matter of race, or even of them being part of a particular subculture.

That really doesn't sound like any mohawked punks I've ever seen or known.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:18 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you counting Prairie and 47th? King and 63rd?
No, I don't think either of those places are in HP. Prairie is too far west to be HP (and 47th is pushing it), and 63rd and King is Woodlawn. But that's kind of not my point. My point is that if you live in or visit Hyde Park and it makes you think racist things, it's probably not Hyde Park's fault. Plenty of people live in Hyde Park without deciding that 15-year-olds deserve to die because some other 15-year-olds behaved badly. I've walked to the post office on 61st to pick up my mail a bunch of times. I've taken the Green line at 63rd. And I continue to think that kids in that neighborhood matter and ought to get a chance to grow up.
Hang out by the high schools after dark?
I lived across the street from the Kenwood Academy for a year and got off the 6 at Lake Park and 51st after dark countless times, and I'm not at all sure what you're talking about.
My understanding is that though all nations obviously have youth crime, especially in areas of no opportunity, in other industrialized nations a more effective penitentiary-rehabilitation system contributes to breaking some of these cultural pathologies.
I don't think this is right. America incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any country on earth. It's not that other countries do prison better, although that might be true. But the salient point is that they do prison less. Prison is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
posted by craichead at 9:57 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in Chicago, on the West Side. According to the census my neighborhood is 96% black. My block is quiet; the neighbors, many of whom have lived here all their lives, keep an eye on things. They agitated for the surveillance camera (a.k.a bluelight) on the corner and now the pocket-park it overlooks is used by kids and basktetball players rather than dealers. Three blocks from here, on a thoroughfare, there's another bluelight facing a liquor store. That's where the action is–go half a block any direction, out of sight of the police eye, and there's dudes slanging rocks and blows, thugs hanging out, hustlers offering socks for sale. My block could be in the suburbs, if you ignore the vacant lots. When the grass grows over the carpet of shattered glass they're even picturesque. Nearby the scene is ghetto.

I'm a newcomer here. I'm friendly with my neighbors, go to their barbeques, chat with the old-timers outside the liquor store, and am at least a known quantity to most of the thugs. I'm also an outsider. In the house next door there's four generations of the same family. At the end of the block there's a house with three generations–father, his two sons, their sister, her two sons–one in his teens, one 11. The 11-year-old and his 3 or 4 buddies like to come to my apartment. They ask my fiancee and I for fruit or to use the computer and they wander around ogling our weird white-people-stuff. I sometimes give them things to do, like draw or make origami. We're going to help them build a treehouse this summer in exchange for help with our garden. They want to paint portraits of themselves on the treehouse walls.

None of the boys has a present father. The 11-year-old was just arrested twice in one week for petty vandalism and shoplifting. His mom and her brothers struggle with dope. She's trying hard and I run into her on her way to and from job training, as well as to and from the spot. She says she wants to get out of the neighborhood, is really worried about her son who's been hanging out with some bad older kids. He's a really bright, charming, smart kid, he's interested in the world around him, and even from my marginal viewpoint I can register some of the incredible tension building within him and his friends.

We're within a block of a gorgeous park. There aren't any tower blocks nearby. It's sure as shit better than Cabrini or the Robert Taylor Homes. Yet when one of the kids comes trotting up the alley I'm walking in, says hey I got my progress report today, shows me all the D's (except a B in P.E.), and when I look dismayed wonders why, I can just see him a couple years later, the glint of wonder in his eyes dulled into blankness, living in a shrunken ugly world.

I hope CeaseFire is working. The program seems at least worth using as a kind of triage. As for preventative medicine, who knows? I sure don't. I try to be a good neighbor. When I was growing up I learned a ton from hanging out with adults who weren't my parents or teachers, who had iguanas or drum kits or collections of salt shakers and a little time to spend with a kid. Little as it is, I can at least try to pass that on.
posted by generalist at 10:13 AM on May 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've probably said enough already, but I'll say a little more

That Miles Davis t-shirt everyone is so fascinated by, here's why I was wearing it. It was the one at the top of the drawer that morning when I got out of the shower. A day or two either way and it would have been one with a logo from a tavern in my old home town, a Steely Dan concert shirt, or one from a folk festival I go to every year. Wasn't trying to show how hip I was, or think I was buying any kind of karma by wearing it. The only reason I mentioned it was that, had I been wearing some Aryan Nations shirt, or a confederate flag or whatever, it would have provided some understanding about what ensued.

As far as being a ghetto tourist, I don't know, maybe there is some kernel of truth in that. There was a cab waiting right by the train when I got off and I could have been there in a few minutes had I taken it. But that day I said no. I told myself it was only a few blocks, and I was going to walk down those streets and be civil to people, the same way I would want a black guy to be able to walk down my street and say hello as I am raking up my frickin leaves in the front yard. I really thought, however small a thing it might be, maybe this was one way to bridge a gap. One small step, that's how every journey begins.

When the first rock hit me, I was shocked and quite scared. I figured I was going to get my ass stomped by a bunch of nine year olds, but they all just stayed there on the stoop. I turned and looked at them, and it was a strange moment. I knew why they threw the rock, and so did they, but then for some brief second it stopped being about black and white and all the history involved in that, and they realized I was just a guy walking down the street, and I realized they were just a bunch of kids. It all fell away, all the anger and pretense and prejudice. Then just as fast, it seemed like it all came back. They started yelling, I started getting scared and took off walking again. There was that one second however, where it was just plain folks on a summer day,

Honestly, it's painful to me to hear folks call me some white douchebag ghetto tourist, and think that I am actually stupid enough to walk into what I know is a dangerous area and think I am gonna go show how "down" I am by wearing a black man's face on my chest. That face was on my chest because he is a fuckiin genius, and I swear there was no forethought about where I was going that morning in the decision.

I guess my thoughts that day were this. I don't want to be afraid anymore. Maybe if I just walked down that street and acted like a decent human being, maybe one of those kids would realize not everyone in the world is a racist jerk, and he is more than welcome to come walk down mine. Yeah, it is lame, but it is one small step.

That moment the rock hit me in my head, was the first time I experienced racism on a personal level. I have thought about it over and over. I said hey to those kids the same way I say good morning to the lady who is walking out of the local diner as I am walking in. And they pelt me with stones.

I'd like to think I'm a pretty good guy. I help my neighbors, I volunteer at my church and little league boy scouts and whatever.

When it comes to the 63rd and King's of our nation, I swear if I had big magic wand and could make it better I would, I really would. But until then, it is not a situation I caused, it is not one that I do anything to foster, and as far as I can see, it is not one I can do anything to change.

However offensive some of you might think my apathy is, I find it equally offensive to have something like this laid at my doorstep like I am responsible for fixing it, and insinuiating that I am a racist for even mentioning my feelings.
posted by timsteil at 11:36 AM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


having children is not a rational decision

This is basically the root of all problems on the entire earth.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think what's offensive, timsteil, is that you've managed to take a discussion about how to deal with inner-city violence and transform it into a discussion about you. From your first post here, it was all about you. It was about your (trivial, to be honest) bad experience. It was about whether or not urban violence was your fault. It was about your apathy and whether or not it was justified.

This isn't about you. It's not about your feelings about urban violence or whether you care about urban violence or your choice of t-shirts. So unless you have something of substance to add to the discussion, probably you should just shut the fuck up.

And yes, I realize that I contributed to the timsteil derail, for which I apologize. But can we get back to talking about Ceasefire and the epidemiology of urban violence? Because it's actually an interesting topic. Actually, I think the whole question of whether you can use epidemiological approaches to deal with human behavior is interesting. Do social trends work like diseases? Could epidemiologists also find solutions to outbreaks of suicide or eating disorders?
posted by craichead at 11:51 AM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


So unless you have something of substance to add to the discussion, probably you should just shut the fuck up.

Here's some substance.

You know what Cease Fire looks like around here?

Take the latest gang leader who just got out of prison. You give him $100,000 government grant. They print a bunch of bumper stickers and t-shirts. They hold a rally up at the Thompson Center. They get a 30 second story on the nightly news, maybe a small mention on page 10 of the Metro section. Then they go do a few assemblies at inner city high schools. The rest of that money dissappears without a question asked and not problem one solved.

End result. More new gang members because this clown looks so cool flashing his government grant money. Does something need to be done? Of course. Is what we are trying now working? Not even close.
posted by timsteil at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2008


I think what's offensive, timsteil, is that you've managed to take a discussion about how to deal with inner-city violence and transform it into a discussion about you.

i think what's offensive is that people can't tell the truth about their experiences without being told that they deserved it, or that they're racists, or that they're part of the problem because they're not part of the solution, or that they're making this all about them

of course, all this is doing is ensuring that he, and anyone else who may have a similar experience, will just turn away and choose not to discuss this, and there will be even less people involved in the discussion

it happens all the time, online and in the real world - if you treat people with that kind of unreasoned hostility, they walk away and say to hell with it - and it only makes the problem worse, doesn't it? - especially if someone is trying to persuade those who pay the taxes for certain programs that these programs are good things

---

on preview -

More new gang members because this clown looks so cool flashing his government grant money.

i think that proves my point right there - a taxpayer who wasn't convinced of the usefulness of that program is now even less convinced

good work, guys
posted by pyramid termite at 12:39 PM on May 4, 2008


No, I don't think either of those places are in HP. Prairie is too far west

I was getting at the peri-HP since you included its surrounding areas in your post. That's where the alleged rock-throwing took place. I don't in any way mean to excuse racism in any other posters (and I never got robbed or assaulted); I'm just reacting to the idea that HP is not surrounded by urban dysfunction.

What you do with offenders is a pretty important part of the equation. I agree that too many people go to prison (many on BS charges) and that prison in the US accomplishes almost nothing for those involved.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2008


Take the latest gang leader who just got out of prison. You give him $100,000 government grant.

Citation please.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2008


Regarding Ceasefire, I have two friends who have worked for the organization, one for a number of years. My only interaction was when one of my friends working with them asked if I wanted to meet some former gang members for a "talk." This was a bit misleading, since it was more a listen. I heard wild stories I might have expected, then some things I didn't expect, like honest reflection on the personal pain and anger involved in even proud gang members. The glorified life is bs. Most are in too deep before they know it, and even having left it they are asking themselves hard questions for years.

For my part, it was enough to suck in a lot of emotions and let them out much later, at an appropriate time. I know it's just talking. I know the murder rate is still ridiculous, and the rampant poverty and segregated climate that gave birth to it still present. But getting people to open up about these issues is a step, a good step considering our completely stupid punishment-is-best approach.

One of the most depressing stories was the recent chemistry phd who was murdered; when his 16 year old killer as asked if he knew where Senegal (Amadou's -the student- country of origin was) the kid said "no." The man he murdered was just another black guy on the block. Whenever I'd get upset about facing racism against my skin color, I'd often get reminded that the worst levels of violence and are black on black.

That trend is becoming more equal-opportunity as latin gangs gain prominence, but it reveals a very basic underlying principle of violence in chicago, if not other cities, that is the closed mouthed continuance of inequality. Anyone who's lived in chicago knows it is one racist fucking burg. But getting people together, to discuss things and approach each other with even a little dignity is something. As to the details of this org squandering funds, or grandstanding, or inadvertently advertising gang life as a way to gov funding, I cannot say, and I do have my suspicions (i did live in chicago). But I know from my own experience with members of Ceasefire, with participation in other local neighborhood groups, from martial arts to organic foods, that some people are doing something. So it's at least worth giving an open ear and mind. /cheeze
posted by sarcasman at 3:53 PM on May 4, 2008


dirtynumbangelbot: Well, the best way to get rid of the toxic culture would be to bulldoze the slums and encourage those people to move to suburbs or rural areas. Many of the people in the slums just don't belong in the city. They can't afford to live in the city. They could live a perfectly acceptable life in small town america, but they continue to live somewhere where they can't afford to live and can't find jobs. You want my answer. You won't like it. Tear down the slums and build more expensive housing. If people try to stay on homeless, send the mentally ill ones to institutions. Encourage the rest to move to suburbs or rural areas with generous severance checks. I use the word severance, because that's what it is. They're getting fired, because things didn't work out. I'm not going to suggest that the thugs are going to become hayseeds or the joneses in suburbia. They'll take their toxic mores with them, but they won't be a majority in charge. They won't have a base of power to propagate their twisted culture, and eventually, they'll die out. A culture can only be destroyed by scattering it to the wind.

joannemerriam: I checked out your link. Something similar was done in the U.S. I don't think that was what I was suggesting. That's rounding up an ethnic minority, and throwing them in orphanages where they will be abused. Actually, I wasn't actually suggesting that we take their children away. I was make a hyperbolic statement about what kind of action it would take to break the thug culture. I was trying to say that a truly successful solution to the problem of the slums would require actions that the majority would find heartless, not conflict resolution training.

everyone: Some people have said that I'm using code words for non-whites. I've seen toxic cultures among South Carolina rednecks with their Klan, urban blacks with their thug culture, pakistani immigrants with their honor killing, and mormon cults with their child abuse.
posted by snookums at 6:10 PM on May 4, 2008


They could live a perfectly acceptable life in small town america, but they continue to live somewhere where they can't afford to live and can't find jobs.

well, i just don't know where to start here - for one thing, small town america might not want them, which is not going to lead to a perfectly acceptable life - i grew up in a 50,000 pop midwestern city and you should know that 1) it was pretty damn racist, 2) a lot of people from detroit moved there anyway and pretty much brought the problems with them, 3) the same psychology and revenge cycle shit that goes on in the big city can go on in a small city, too, with the same drugs and the same gangs

the city i live in now is only slightly larger and the community on the north side is just about besides itself trying to figure out how to defuse what's getting to be a horrible situation of kids killing each other over pretty much high school shit - not drugs, not gangs, just people with grudges

i'm not sure that small town america's any better - out in the small towns in my area, meth is rampant and there seem to be quite a lot of people killing each other, too - there's areas in rural michigan that have adc rates that compare with the inner city and also have high arson and rape rates

and then you've also shown a supreme ignorance of history when you say this

Tear down the slums and build more expensive housing

what the hell do you think urban renewal is? this has been done for decades and all it does is move the problem somewhere else

A culture can only be destroyed by scattering it to the wind.

you mean like how everyone moved out to the burbs in the 50s and 60s? - it pretty much DID destroy our culture

haven't you noticed?

i think increased community involvement and increased police presence are the only two things that are going to work and it's going to be tough - ceasefire seems like it might help with this
posted by pyramid termite at 7:00 PM on May 4, 2008


Actually, all you really need to do is end the Drug War. Prohibition is the lifeline of these mafias - their entire economic model is balanced on the scarcity of contraband.

Of course, this requires overcoming an entrenched, inexplicable support for the Drug War in the Black community and among Black politicians. It means transitioning to a model of community and state drug treatment options from one of militarized Federal interdiction.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:13 PM on May 4, 2008


And neither a Clinton nor an Obama can be relied upon to do this - it calls for a vast shrinking of Federal policing powers, and the creation of effective local treatment programs. It must come from the roots up, from the affected cities and states themselves.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:18 PM on May 4, 2008


Actually, all you really need to do is end the Drug War.

i don't deny that it would help a great deal, but what's scaring a lot of people these days is that there's a trend of killing going on that doesn't have anything to do with gangs or drugs
posted by pyramid termite at 8:00 PM on May 4, 2008


I do apologize Brandon, for framing your response as "angry". I actually did think about it before I hit post, because your words actually didn't seem angry and I didn't want to contribute to the eternal debate over "tone". But then I took the lazy way out and just hit post anyway. "Disgusted" is certainly more apt.
posted by Danila at 9:17 PM on May 4, 2008


Well, the best way to get rid of the toxic culture would be to bulldoze the slums and encourage those people to move to suburbs or rural areas.

This is variously called 'gentrification' or 'urban renewal' and it does nothing but push the problem away. There is absolutely no addressing of the actual issues involved. So yeah, that's not actually a solution--something I suspect you know very well, when you say that they will bring their toxic culture with him. What you call a 'solution' is more accurately known as 'NIMBY".
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:46 AM on May 6, 2008


hmm, I'm going to disagree with dirtynumbangelboy. NIMBYs are people who don't want new buildings built near them. That suggestion is something far worse (or just something called "trolling").

Gentrification is just building some new buildings, causing surrounding property values to go up, and lower-income people no longer being able to rent in the neighborhood unless the city takes special actions to keep the area affordable. Gentrification typically happens via developments on other people's private property, so it's nothing like the violation of property rights and human rights being described.

The closest thing in modern planning history is probably the "slum clearance" projects of the 60s and 70s. What he's describing sounds like that, or worse. The ironic thing is that this extreme thing snookums touts as "the best way" even though he admits we won't like it, has actually been tried and didn't work. Well, back to the drawing board!
posted by salvia at 8:49 AM on May 6, 2008


salvia, up here NIMBYism is used as a sort of catchall for "I don't want it near me, shove the problem off on someone else", not just specifically buildings.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2008


Yeah, but do you associate NIMBYism with bulldozing entire neighborhoods and evacuating the entire existing population through a combination of forced detention and financial incentives? NIMBYs are not usually that bad. :) Plus, most NIMBYs I've met would hate the idea of rebuilding the neighborhood, even with upscale housing -- it might increase traffic!!
posted by salvia at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2008


Yeah, when it's a matter of forcibly getting 'the bad element' out and making it someone else's problem.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2008


Oh man, and I thought we had a bad NIMBY problem here!
posted by salvia at 3:07 PM on May 6, 2008


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