It’s a Tough Conversation to Have

Tanya Calvin Two summers ago I woke up to the sound of my sister sobbing. I walked across our room to her bed and groggily asked her what was wrong, figuring she’d had a fight with one of her friends or her boyfriend or something of that nature. “They killed him…they shot him…right in front of me…he’s dead.” I continued asking questions but she couldn’t answer, she couldn’t speak. I would later find out that  “he” was Rodney, a friend of my sister’s that I had never met. He was murdered in the street, in front of all of his friends, after getting into a fight with someone. The police arrived at the scene, asking everyone questions, including my sister, but never found the murderer. The same crying woke me up later that year. This time it was more of a wail, suppressed screams and a trembling body. She answered my question before I could even ask. “Linear…they stabbed Linear…they stabbed him…he’s dead.” I collapsed next to her, trying to console her while processing what she had just told me. Linear was a family friend who I had known for years. He was stabbed while sitting in his car, his girlfriend sitting right next to him, murdered by some guy on the street who he was arguing with. At the wake everyone kept saying the same thing: “He was too young. This is crazy. This shouldn’t have happened.” In the midst of the war zone that Chicago has become, those three phrases are heard constantly. Murders and violent crimes are presented on the news like reading off a grocery list; name, age, location, crime. The Red Eye has a Homicide Tracker, complete with a map pinpointing where the murder occurred. Chicago is often mentioned in between tragedies, like in Newtown and Aurora, when discussing gun control. With more homicides than Afghanistan just last year, our city is under attack by its own citizens. If it’s such a huge part of Chicago, why isn’t it being discussed in Latin’s hallways? When I asked someone for their opinion about the violence, they responded “I don’t know enough about it to answer.” Junior Cynthia Trujillo says “too many people are desensitized to it.” The most powerful response I heard was from Sophomore Lexi Bolandhemat. “Even though I usually never venture out of the 5 mile radius that is Lincoln Park/Lakeview, I still hear about local violence everyday. There’s never a day when I don’t turn on the news to hear about a rape in an alley, or a shooting on the South side and the collateral damage associated with it. I’m now used to seeing the teary-eyed relatives on TV demanding that Chicago street violence be stopped. I also feel like there’s a false sense of security at Latin. In our 59 W. North Ave. bubble, we leave out our phones and laptops, but if you walk 4 blocks down to Clark and Division, you tuck your phone into your pocket and pray that you don’t get jumped. It makes me sad to see such a different environment three minutes away.” So is it the “bubble” that blocks out the heartbreaking conversations about violence from entering Latin? Or is it part of a bigger picture that has to do with how the crimes are discussed even outside of school? Junior Pilar Neumann says it’s “an epidemic the country ignores. The media covers other deaths but forgets it happens in Chicago on a much larger scale every day.” There’s no denying the truth behind that either. The brutality in our city has become so constant that it seems like the news runs through it without any thought. Families of victims and people living in high-risk neighborhoods plea for support, a solution, anything that will stop their loved ones from being murdered but it seems nothing is being done. What can we do, as Latin students, in our safe, tight-knit community, to take action against this plague that has taken over our city? Just talking about it will get us somewhere, and remembering that it’s not always about location, as violent crimes are happening closer and closer to “safe neighborhoods”. We know it happens but that’s no reason to brush it off and continue with our day, especially with the timing of it all. Gun control is discussed so frequently in politics that it’s essential we keep it in mind. It might not affect some of us now but as long as we keep sitting back and ignoring it, the problem is only going to come closer and closer to home. President Obama declared in a speech just a few days ago that “if we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together […] cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children.” We can’t ignore that, not as a community, not as a school, not as individuals. It’s a tough conversation to have, but waiting until you’re affected by it, waiting until someone you love is hurt or worse, is a lot tougher.  ]]>