It is getting all too familiar to read the newspaper after the weekend and learn that staggering numbers of people having been shot in what should be days of recovery, relaxation, a time that other people in the world look forward to.
And while it’s being reported this week that the number of homicides in Chicago is lower than last year, it still doesn’t erase the fear and terror felt by the many residents most affected by violence.
When visiting my mother, a former Austin resident who has moved to North Lawndale, I can see the anxiety she has concerning my two younger brothers who are 16 and 12.
The 16-year-old is growing frustrated with my mother’s constraints over his social life and her obsessing about him being accountable for the time spent away from home.
I get his frustration of feeling trapped and not being able to be as free as other teens his age, but the truth is, there are so many dangers waiting for him just outside his door.
A 17-year-old was shot and seriously injured while walking down the street outside of Rainbow PUSH. A girl was shot to death by another girl over a dispute over a boy. Several years ago, Blair Holt, the son of Chicago Police officers, was shot and killed on a CTA bus.
There are so many teens affected by gun violence, and being at the right place sometimes is not even enough to keep teens away from it.
The stereotypes of teens putting themselves in danger by participating in risky behavior is not always the case, and many parents in Chicago are worried.
There is no sure answer to keep teens safe in the neighborhoods most affected by the violence.
My mother’s approach may be an effective approach. She takes my brothers to neighboring Oak Park most days to let them play basketball at a park and has my 12 -year-old brother in a football league outside of the neighborhood.
My 16-year-old brother, a talented artist, attends Marwen, where he hones his art skills, and he was recently accepted into a summer program with the Chicago Art Institute, which my mother encouraged him to do to keep him safely away from danger.
As a single mother, she does all of this in addition to working a full-time job because she knows her sons are no different than any of the other innocent victims who’ve been shot.
And I understand that she carries a certain privilege to afford some of the programs she has used to protect them; other families might not be able to afford such programs to keep their children safe.
When my 16-year-old brother comes to me with his frustrations, I encourage him to keep working hard in school so that he can attend college and safely make it out of the neighborhood, because I want him to live a life not engrossed in fear.
I can’t address his feeling that his situation isn’t fair, because it’s not fair. I don’t think it’s fair that he can’t ride his bike around his neighborhood, walk around the block or freely ride the bus as he would like.
It is not fair that he has to be worried about being hit by a bullet either directly aimed at him or one floating toward an unknown target.
While teens in safer communities can worry about “normal” teenager problems, my brother has to understand the very real threat: his neighborhood is not safe, and fair or not, there are certain restrictions that come with living in a Chicago neighborhood infested with gun violence.
The extra pressure of keeping kids safe from being a victim gun violence is an added stress that many hardworking mothers and fathers like my mom have to live with every day. No overall decrease in homicides can erase that.
No media report can decrease the angst I sometimes feel when visiting my mother or the voice always lingering that being shot is a very real threat. No family should have to live that way in a land of so much opportunity.
Fountain is a former Austin resident now working for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.