As a native Chicagoan born on the South Side who currently lives in the West Loop, I took Abbott’s comments as a personal and civic offense—and so did many others.
We Chicagoans are tired of our great city being demonized for cheap political points or fodder for right-wing media.
First, the narrative about the city being the most dangerous in America is false.
CBS News created list of America’s most dangerous cities in February, and Chicago was not even in the top 25. It came in at No. 28 with a murder rate of 18.26 persons per 100,000.
Second, Chicago is used as a shield to prevent enacting gun laws, with the narrative that strict gun laws do not prevent gun violence. That notion is an incomplete picture. Chicago’s experience demonstrates that nationwide gun reform is required more than merely leaving the matter up to the states.
Firearms in Chicago originate disproportionately from out of state. According to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives program that traces guns seized across the country, an outsized share of firearms recovered by law enforcement authorities in other states can be traced back to Texas. Indiana is also a source of a disproportionate amount of weapons. Yes, people are going across the Illinois border to Indiana to acquire fireworks and guns.
According to the ATF, the average state has approximately two-thirds of the firearms recovered in that state traced by ATF originate in that state. Illinois is at 50 percent, and possibly as low as 40 percent, far lower than the average.
Third, the perception of Chicago as that of a third-world country is absurd. Just a few examples:
Our city is filled with beautiful parks: Garfield Park, Grant Park, Washington Park, Union Park, Douglas Park and Jackson Park, just to name a few.
We have amazing food. Ever have four wings fried hard, mild sauce with salt and pepper at Harold’s on 87th and Lafayette? A Maxwell polish? Al’s Italian Beef? Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s deep dish? How about a Chicago mix at Garrett Popcorn? Ever visited Restaurant Row in the West Loop/Fulton Market?
Chicago has amazing festivals that are donation-based or free all summer long. Taste of Chicago, Taco y Tamale Festival in Pilsen, Do Division Festival, Chosen Few Picnic, Chicago Blues Festival, Hyde Park Summer Fest, Chicago Food Truck Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Chicago Air & Water Show, and the Chicago Jazz Festival are only a small sampling of the many ways to explore the different neighborhoods, cuisines and culture of a vibrant city in the summer that has been coined “Summertime Chi.”
Did I mention the vibrant arts, culture and museum scene? Get your fill at the Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago’s Theater District or go to Pilsen and see beautiful murals. And all of our pro sports stadiums are in the city, not in the middle of nowhere.
Chicago has miles of beautiful beaches spanning north to south with gorgeous views of the best skyline in the United States.
The city is rich with beautiful architecture with plenty of tours on foot, bus or boat. Speaking of boats, you can rent one to cruise along the lovely Chicago River and see the sights for yourself. Lastly, state and local politicians rightly criticized Abbott.
“Gov Abbott, instead of coming after my city, take a moment to think about how YOU can stop this carnage,” tweeted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“Don’t feed into the false narrative about Chicago and Illinois — it’s an excuse that politicians like you hide behind to stop the federal legislation we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people” tweeted Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Abbott should fix the problems in his state instead of focusing on my city, a beautiful world-class city. Yes, the city has issues to tackle, but we are a prideful bunch here, and we want the world to recognize the beauty here, instead of the ugliness of propaganda.
Wouldn’t that be sweet?
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism