Chicagoland is a non-scripted, eight-part series covering our hometown Chicago. The series is produced by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn of Sundance Productions, and filmed by the award-winning Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin of BCTV. It explores the politics and policy of an evolving city trying to address complex issues in the spheres of education, crime, and inequality. In this Gate series, University of Chicago graduate student, Allen Linton II, will provide a review of each episode and a personal perspective on a controversial portrayal of Chicago. The original posts can be found on Allen’s blog. These posts have been adapted and edited for our readers.
Everyone knows what’s going on and no one knows anything.
After resigning myself to the fact that the violence in Chicagoland was starting to become overwhelming, episode seven doubled down on the gun violence. This penultimate episode shined a spotlight on illegal guns, gun laws, and the gun as the unofficial symbol of modern day Chicago. Though we were spared a trip to the hospital or chalk outlines at crime scenes, the episode made one thing abundantly clear: gun proliferation appears to be an unsolvable problem.
When I suggest that “everyone knows what’s going on” I mean that all parties involved, from law enforcement to the incarcerated, know how the guns move into the city, how they are supported, and their impact on communities. One of the bright spots of the episodes was the voice given to inmates at Cook County jail who spoke about the ease with which they were able to obtain a gun, despite the fact that law enforcement officials in Chicago repossess more illegal guns than in any major American city.
People know where the guns come from – often times they were originally bought legally outside the city and they know how to get ammunition. We all know this but the efforts to curtail the influx of guns on the street seem to elude the best efforts of lawmakers and officers. Mandatory minimum sentencing is talked about a lot in this episode but there isn’t much research that would suggest that tougher sentencing laws would prevent gun acquisition or gun crimes. In addition, these policies historically hurt black and brown populations the most. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle precisely described this concern noting, “Jail is the intersection of racism and poverty in America.” The plea for tougher gun laws comes at a time when Chicago has arguably, the toughest gun laws in America. Eventually, conceal and carry was passed here though the bar to obtain a legal permit in Chicago is extraordinarily high. Tough gun laws are needed but smarter gun interception is needed too.
Oh and we finally got to see more of the Latino population of Chicago by visiting Little Village. That cultural exploration was quickly muted and the focus quickly centered on gun violence. The series highlighted one organization, Rob and Amy’s Project Play, a non-profit that provides programs to counter gang violence. Chicagoland isn’t the first series to focus on Chicago’s gun violence problem – the city’s high crime rate is well documented and discussed by everyone. Crime is one of the largest obstacles to supporting economic growth equally throughout the city. Rev. Michael Pfleager suggests no one cares because black teenagers are dying and that is partially true. Chicagoans beg politicos and media not to ignore Chicago when discussing gun violence after hearing about shootings in places like Newtown or Colorado or Virginia Tech. But few people nationally are taking on guns in a meaningful way. Local leaders like Christian Mitchell and Robin Kelly have made it a pillar of their campaigns elected office, but the inaction on the issue leaves many to wonder whether folks really do care.
Table of Contents: A Chicagoan Reviews Chicagoland
1: Episode 1
2: Episode 2
3: Episode 3
4: Episode 4
5: Episode 5
6: Episode 6