Loyola Phoenix

Is Chicago Really the Greatest City on Earth?

The city of Chicago gleams over Lake Michigan, as seen from the Adler Planetarium at night.

Time Out recently named Chicago the best city in the world for the second consecutive year. While the Windy City surely has a lot to flaunt for its out-of-town visitors, it also boasts one of the highest crime rates in the United States — a statistic that isn’t new. Chicagoans have every right to be proud of their hometown, but their pride shouldn’t ignore the many issues the city has.

When naming the world’s best city, Time Out uses six key characteristics to judge various candidates: dynamism, inspiration, food and drink, community, sociability and affordability.

Anyone who’s lived in Chicago would agree the city should rank highly in these categories. From its world-famous cuisine to its gorgeous lakefront location, Chicago is undoubtedly one of the greatest cities in the world. What Time Out doesn’t take into account, however, is the overwhelming amount of crime in the city, most of which takes place on the South and West Sides.

In 2016, Chicago’s violence peaked to its worst point in nearly 20 years. The following year, the violence decreased by 15 percent, although many who live in high-risk areas would remind us it remains a gravely serious issue. Just recently, the city had its most violent weekend of 2018 thus far.

While a large amount of this violence is occurring on Chicago’s South and West Sides, it’s not beholden to those areas. Rogers Park and Edgewater also often deal with violence and crime.

Looking through The PHOENIX’s crime reports gives readers a sense of how prevalent crime is near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. The PHOENIX always prints an updated security notebook of local crimes committed against Loyola students or in close proximity to campus.

Because Loyola is in northern Chicago, it’s easier for us to ignore the rampant violence and crime largely taking place in other parts of the city. While or surrounding neighborhoods harbor crime, it hasn’t reached the level to where it affects how we live our day-to-day lives. We don’t walk to classes in fear of our lives as many other Chicagoans do.

Many news outlets, such as The Atlantic, call Chicago the most segregated city in America. There’s a clear divide between neighborhoods such as Englewood and Rogers Park, but there shouldn’t be. Besides the enormous violence Englewood comparatively has, it also has more health issues and poorer schools.

This is largely a result of the city investing in the tourist attractions that make it money — such as the brand new 222-room waterfront hotel soon opening on Navy Pier — over the poorer parts of the city. If the divides between Englewood and Rogers Park, among other neighborhoods, are ever to dissolve, Chicago needs to put as much money and resources into the areas that need it as the areas that make it money.

While making his controversial film “Chi-Raq” (2015) on Chicago’s South Side, director Spike Lee said the city reminded him of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” Lee, a proud New Yorker, was criticized for coming to Chicago to highlight its struggles and suffering for entertainment, but, he’s right about one thing: the division in the city. Chicago is simultaneously one of the most “powerful” cities in the world and one of the crime capitals of the United States. Much of the Windy City’s perceived “power” comes from its businesses and tourist attractions, most of which lie in the middle of the city or north of it.

The tone of Chicago shifts once one passes the heart of the city southbound on the Red Line. A new world opens up that many North-siders don’t often frequent. We’re advantaged enough to live in an area of the city with a low amount of crime, relative to other parts of Chicago. It’s easy for us to watch shooting statistics pour in from the South and West Sides of the city week after week and read them solely as numbers, not fully recognizing they’re coming from the same city we live in.

But it’s also easy for us to ignore all the South and West Sides of the city have to offer. From Pilsen and Bridgeport’s art scene, to festivals such as Hyde Park’s famous jazz festival and the Soulful Chicago Book Fair, to museums such as Museum of Science and Industry and the Dusable Museum-African American History and a collection of iconic bars and restaurants, there are countless ways to immerse oneself in an authentic Chicago experience in less recognized areas.

Chicago’s flaws aren’t limited to its high rate of violent crime. The city has had a long string of corruption in its government, most notably with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the accusations against him of bribery. On top of this, Chicago’s weather is notoriously harsh and volatile during winter months, which may turn many potential city-dwellers away.

Despite all this, it’s Chicagoans who make their city great. It’s the people. It’s their generosity and blue-collar work ethic. It’s everyone from every corner of the city. Regardless of what Chicago, its government or its weather may throw at them, they always find a way to get through it.

This editorial isn’t to say Chicagoans shouldn’t have pride in their city or that Time Out was necessarily wrong in naming Chicago the best city in the world. Rather, this is to remind readers that the city isn’t perfect — the whole of it is greater than the sum of its parts. We need to embrace every aspect of what makes Chicago great and simultaneously acknowledge every facet that needs to improve.

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