Many of us came to Loyola because we wanted to go to school in a big city. We brag about Chicago to our friends, and we take advantage of the opportunities the city offers.
But when it comes down to it, most of the time we act like students of Loyola University, not of Loyola University Chicago –– the Chicago part is just for bragging purposes.
Ask a class of 30 people who the mayor of Chicago is and maybe half will answer correctly. Ask who was the contender in the April 7 mayoral runoff –– the first in Chicago history –– and people will either stay quiet, acknowledge that they didn’t know there was a runoff or say it was a Latino…some “Chewy” Garcia. (The mayoral runoff candidate was Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.)
We take what we want and what is convenient to us out of this city, but how much do we really know?
Who’s Karen Lewis? Why are public school teachers protesting? Who was called “Mayor 1 Percent” and why? What’s up with all the rallies downtown this semester? Why does the CTA stink and why are services at risk of being cut?
Have we really paused and taken a look at Chicago, or are we just here as passersby –– getting what we want without caring about anything else. We present ourselves as part of the city, but are we really? Do we really know what goes on or are we just parroting stereotypes?
We are among the first generation to call this city “Chiraq” even though Chicago is not even close to being the “murder capital” of the country. We condemn the South Side as a land of lawlessness even though most of us haven’t set foot there. Many of us are the first ones to applaud the building of a hotel near campus without analyzing the pros and cons it could bring to the neighborhood –– to our neighbors.
At the very least, there are certain practices students should be doing to show that they respect the city they live in, and it starts with acknowledging that there is a world going on outside of campus. We can always be more aware and involved with the city on different levels, and being politically informed is one of them.
For example, students enjoy many benefits of living in the city — convenient public transportation, a future of raised minimum wage, clean sidewalks downtown — but many wouldn’t be able to name the politicians who run all these.
That is why it is crucial that students know who is in office and what these politicians are working toward. We cannot expect to have our voices hear about issues in the city if we don’t even know who to speak to in the first place.
Many people don’t know who our alderman is (or, for that matter, what an alderman is) — or even our mayor. The politicians who are making decisions that directly affect the city are strangers, even when their faces are plastered all over newspapers and TV screens.
Staying informed does not need to be difficult, and it can take minimal effort. Pick up a newspaper or download a news application that can sift through what you need to know for the day — and make it a daily task. This does not need to be a timely process either. Rather than looking through Instagram or Facebook on your bus or El ride downtown, skim over current events. Hold yourself accountable for knowing what is going on around you.
While staying politically informed is important, it is also important that students spread awareness on the facts of our city. If you know the facts, false Chicago stereotypes can be completely avoided. For example, the issue mentioned above of students calling Chicago “Chiraq” is a bit of a stretch — and students continuing to throw the term around diminishes the positives of what Chicago has to offer. If people knew the true facts, they would know that when the population numbers are taken into account with the murder count, Chicago is no longer in the running for being the murder capital — not of the world, nor the nation.
It takes doing a little research to know what the real story is behind stereotypes like these, just like the time it took to write this article and to compile the facts above. But ignorance is not bliss, and neglecting to do your research is not an acceptable excuse for being uninformed. Do your research. Make an effort to be an informed resident of the city.
Though we can’t solve every single problem the city has, it is important to not make the issues worse by stretching the truth and hyping up rumors. Take pride in the city you reside in, and don’t build on the negatives. Be informed, and work to build on the positives Chicago has. We should be working toward breaking the stereotypes, not reinforcing them.
It’s easy to conform and take these rumors as facts. But we must use our own initiatives to leave the bubble Loyola offers us, and we must make an effort to seek the truth in every story.
The first step of accomplishing all of the above is making a commitment to care. Do you care about the city you live in? Do you care about Chicago, its well-being and its reputation? As a Chicago resident and as someone who calls this city your home, you should.
The city can be our playground, and we should embrace the various professional and leisure opportunities Chicago has to offer, but we should also leave the city better than it was when we first got here. Stand up for Chicago, and make an effort to work for its well-being. Don’t just take from the city you live in; give back and make being informed a priority. We owe Chicago that much.