When I first started interviewing Chicago youth about their interactions with the police, I never expected that I would spend a year and a half embedded with one of the most notorious gangs in the city. I had devoted the first five years of my career as a sociologist to talking to homeless people on Los Angeles’s Skid Row about how they navigated their lives around police presence. I planned to continue similar work after joining the faculty of the University of Chicago in 2012. But when I began talking to groups of kids in the city about the police, I quickly realized that what they really wanted to discuss was gangs.
During one such meeting, I pulled up a map of Chicago on my tablet and pointed to random intersections. No matter what corner, even miles from their homes, these kids had an intimate knowledge of gang activity there. One boy told me, “If I walk down Cottage Grove, I know that in some places I need to keep my head on a swivel. In others, I can relax my guard.” And I’m thinking, There is no real reason this kid should know this much about gang presence on the South Side, because he’s from another side of town. It wasn’t just territory they had down cold. They were up on the latest of basically every gang war in the city.
I asked these kids how the hell they knew all this. They looked at me like I was an idiot. “Music,” they said.
To read the rest of the article, click on the link: 'DISPATCHES FROM THE RAP WARS' My 18 Months Inside One Of Chicago’s Most Notorious Gangs