34 Chicago

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

That’s what was new: the arrival of a new equilibrium between hope and fear; the sense, shared by adults and youth alike, that some, if not most, of our boys, were slipping beyond rescue. Even lifelong South Siders like Johnnie noticed the change. “I ain’t never seen it like this, Barack,” he would tell me one day we sat in his apartment sipping beer. “I mean, things were tough when I was coming up, but there were limits. We’d get high, get into fights. But out in public, at home, if an adult saw you getting loud or wild, they would say something. And most of us would listen, you know what I’m saying? “Now with the drugs, the guns-all that’s disappeared. Don’t take a whole lot of kids carrying a gun. Just one or two. Somebody says something to one of ’em, and-pow!-kid wastes him. Folks hear stories like that, they just stop trying to talk to these young cats out here. We start generalizing about’em just like the white folks do. We see’em hanging out, we head the other way. After a while, even the good kid starts realizing ain’t nobody out here gonna lookout for him. So he figures he’s gonna have to look after himself. Bottom line, you got twelve-year-olds making their own damn rules” -P.253, October 12, 2021

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