The RedEye Chicago is a free publication in the city of Chicago with a stated mission of being a source for a brief and brillant take on news, sports and entertainment. This publication, through their Twitter account, on July 6, offered their take on the prevalent gun violence in Chicago. I viewed their take extremely offensive and counterproductive to solving this highly sensitive and fatal problem in our city. Below is my Letter to the Editor of RedEye Chicago which was written July 8, 2013:
As a native Chicagoan and loyal reader from high school until now I was taken aback yesterday by the RedEye’s tweets in response to the spike of gun violence in the city over the holiday weekend. The tweets seemed highly insensitive, judgmental and did not seem like they were meant to constructively add to the conversation about gun violence. To say the least I was disappointed in this publication that claims journalistic merit by taking a “brief and brilliant take on news.”
Within the tweets (which I have attached to this letter), the RedEye claimed “103% of people who tweet that Chicago is a war zone had never actually been to a war zone.” I responded to this tweet inquiring what was the point of giving an inflated percentage and suggesting that people like me could never refer to Chicago as a war zone because I did not come from a position of experience. Yet living here — losing friends here — reminds me that I don’t have to go overseas to experience war. Though the numbers vary, about 72 people were wounded this weekend, which was a significant spike from about the 48 people shot over this past Father’s Day weekend.
To an extent, I agree with that tweet. No, I have never experienced an established war zone with definite boundaries, but when more than five dozen people in my city are shot (among them a boy who hasn’t even entered kindergarten), I’m going to confidently proclaim that we certainly are not living in a safe zone.
Secondly in response to this same tweet, a Chicagoan defended the belief that our city is “Chiraq.” Whoever was controlling the twitter account for the RedEye then asked this Chicagoan where he lived. Now my question is: Why does that matter? Why are we vetting people who can speak on this issue of gun violence in our city? If we are, let me be completely clear now — full disclosure — I live and have always lived on the far northwest side of the city, but I’m still a Chicagoan. I’m still a human who feels empathy, who feels pain, who feels sorrow by the fact that my peers across the city are being gunned down and business as usual continues in the city.
So I’m still asking the RedEye why should it matter where I live? I shouldn’t have to justify which Chicago neighborhood I reside in. It makes me sad that we as a city can write off a spike in violence to a spike in summertime temperatures. It makes me even angrier that we in Chicago are pitting ourselves against one another saying that because gun violence is only concentrated in some areas of the city that it is “their problem” and not “ours.”
I am a strong advocate that what affects Chicagoans in one area will eventually seep over into all of our lives. This isn’t a separate country we are talking about. It is a walk, drive on the expressway or a CTA train ride away.
I love Chicago: I grew up here, I went to school here and my closest friends are here. That’s why I am writing this letter. I want everyone — native or tourist — to feel the same way about the city as I do. That goal is not achieved by telling Chicagoans who don’t live on the South and West Side to stop tweeting, talking and writing about gun violence in the city. That is counterproductive. This is a conversation that all of us need to constructively and genuinely discuss.
Until the RedEye acknowledges their unique power in driving this vital conversation forward through both their tweets and print publication I do not think I will be reading it on the train or following the account anymore.
Tweets from the RedEye on July 6, 2013.