Inner city folklore


Jabari Parker wrote a post on The Player’s Tribune regarding his desire to assist in reducing crime in his hometown of Chicago. He wants to donate his time. Donate his money. Start a youth basketball camp. Parker wants to become a teacher following the end of his NBA career in order to provide a good example and opportunities for children to get out of their bad situation. Just as Parker was able to get out because of those who looked out for him and the examples he saw of the potential for a better life.

The sentiment is admirable, but mistaken. Chicago is one of the most violent cities in America, especially in neighborhoods such as that where Parker grew up. And this year promises to be the most violent yet. But failure to reduce the violence is not for lack of trying.

Most people who grow up in these neighborhoods stricken by crime and gun violence are simply unable to get out. While some efforts do have a positive effect, the problems of these neighborhoods are structural. Children of violent neighborhoods become stuck in a feedback loop of emotional, behavioral and substance abuse and academic underachievement. It’s hypersegregation.

Jabari Parker got out because he was good at basketball. Really good at basketball. Not because good examples were available. Parker says he doesn’t want to be folklore, doesn’t want to become a myth of someone who got out because he’s never around to be a concrete example. That’s admirable. And he should do everything he discusses. But perhaps even more dangerous than being folklore is perpetuating the folklore that trying to treat the proximate causes of the crime and violence changes the structural underpinnings.


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