I cannot count the number of times I have heard comments equating majority poor black neighborhoods (“ghettos”) with exponential violence this week. Most, however, do not understand the clear problems with these statements. While the majority of these comments are from my classmates at the University of Chicago- a school that actively others the surrounding black neighborhoods, discourages students from entering into these spaces and seems to have a culture that nurtures blatant racism- this sentiment represents one of the larger American populace. I would like to take this time to highlight how our country’s exclusive association of violence with the “ghetto” often ignores violence in other perceived “safe” spaces. It is important to note that my usage of the word “ghetto” is solely to represent it’s vernacular usage.
First and foremost, crime is not a “ghetto”-specific concept. Crime happens everywhere. We, as a country (including the media), seem to ignore this basic and incontestable truth. Consider the crime that occurs in Chicago. According to the crimes reports from April 4th to May 4th 2013, Washington Park- a black “ghetto”- had 28 reports of violent crimes. While Near North Side-a predominantly white neighborhood- had an almost equal 29 reports. Interestingly, Near North Side had an alarming 375 reports of property crimes (including burglary, theft, and arson), while Washington Park had only 51 reports. Sadly, many would succumb to immense fear walking through the streets of Washington Park and the exact opposite in the Near North Side. At the end of day, our fears of the “ghetto” are simply fears of black people and the violence we often associate with them. Yes, there is crime in majority black neighborhoods, and yes, it is a humongous issue. What is often ignored is the simple fact that the same goes for predominantly white urban neighborhoods as well.
Additionally, our exclusive association with black people and violence takes attention away from extensive violence that happens within the “safe” spaces of our nation’s campuses. Just a few days ago, the Daily Princetonian published statistics on sexual violence that the University attempted to hide. These statistics highlight the near 1 in 6 women that experienced some sort of sexual assault while attending the Ivy League institution. This issue of sexual assault, however, is not exclusive to Princeton. Amherst College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Williams College and several more all have had recent issues with sexual assault on campus. A female student at Chapel Hill is even facing expulsion for speaking out on rape. But, these severe issues are not talked about. This is partially due to the university administrators that actively elevate their school’s reputation over justice of the abused women they silence. However, beyond that, our country’s exclusive association of violence with the “ghetto” and the black people who encompass these spaces is also to blame.
We have got to shatter the microscope on violence that occurs in our nation’s “ghettos” and be more conscious of violence that occurs in other deceptively safe spaces. Stepping into an area with a more impoverished population does not suggest exponentially more violence or crime. Stepping into an area with more black people does not mean you are going to be robbed or shot! As indicated above, at least in the case of Chicago, you are more likely to be robbed in the predominately white neighborhoods of Near North Side, than the black Washington Park. Instead of being obsessed with unfounded and racially targeted conceptions of blackness and violence, more attention should be paid to sexual violence that repetitively transpires within our nation’s college campuses and crimes that occur throughout our cities.