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Lil Reese & The white origins of Chriaq’s gang wars.

I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.

In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap.

Where I’m from? Chiraq……..

..300 Normal Spelled Backwards.—Lil Reese

Many people growing up in Chiraq have lost many friends and relatives from the ensuing gang wars. Lil Reese indicates that he too has been affected by this and states that this is reality, not ‘movie shit.’ He’s done this in efforts to distinguish himself from  your typical studio-gangsters who make idle threats and appear ‘thugish’ in rap videos only to go back to their fancy homes after the video shoot to a full refrigerator and comfortable couches in the suburbs.

His phrase ‘turned into a savage’ refers to the mentality that many people in his crew have developed from living in such appalling social conditions. A recent study indicates that black youth in Chiraq who are exposed to such violence develop post-traumatic stress disorders comparable to troops returning home from military combat. However, for these youth, this isn’t ‘post-traumatic’ because this violence is a continuous cycle that takes place in their neighborhood everyday. Further, unlike military troops, these youth never receive visits from psychologists to aid them. As Lil Reese stated, “A body getting dropped everyday – this shit is real.”

A body getting dropped refers to people dying from gunshots. The sad truth is that many youth have absolutely nothing to lose within the confides of the current social system. Indeed, when you watch a Lil Reese video, in his hood you’ll see many shirts displaying “R.I.P.” to the names of various friends and “Free”  to the names of various people locked away.

Both Chief Keef and Lil Reese grew up in Englewood. They would probably be surprised to hear that their now impoverished and violent community was once predominately white and affluent. Moreover, in addition to being mostly white, it was once a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. As America began to integrate and African-Americans entered deep into the Chicago areas—this once predominately white area began organizing violently against the African-American communities. They then formed a neighborhood associations with slogans like: “America for whites, Africa The Only Place for Niggers.”  They then went on to say “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages.” While these whites portrayed African-Americans as savages, all the behavior that whites partook in to defend against integration were of that very nature. After a rumor that a house in Englewood was going to be purchased by a black family, whites began to carry out bombings, physical assaults, and arson on black residents for simply trying to live their lives. After putting up posters saying “NEGROES INVADING” a bunch of white racists came together starting the “EngleWood Race Riots of 1949”. As African-Americans continued to move in, “a white plight” took place as whites moved to suburban areas, leaving the black community in absolute turmoil, chaos, and social decay.

Now, I’ve constantly heard the argument that goes something like this: “Lil Reese was born in 1993, those riots took place in 1949.” As if it had no effect on him.  White people had the benefit of passing wealth to their children who could then pass it on to their children; they also had the luxury of a stable home and other infrastructure. As a result of these race riots, blacks who were affected   were not given the same opportunities nor has the racist system that has been designed to disenfranchise blacks from employment been abolished. These riots and systemic obstacles left the black community in absolute economic turmoil. The poverty that resulted from it allowed the illegal economy to takeover as the number one employer for black youth. Similarly, when peaceful African-Americans first moved to Englewood, a racist of the white, anti-intergrationist stated that” I think they[Blacks] are savages.” Now, over 30 years later Lil Reese embraces this image, stating that “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.”  The forces of white supremacy turns oppressed Black people into savages creating the conditions for gang warfare in black communities.

A critical look at the South-Side of Chicago

Nearly everyone in Chiraq has friends who are now imprisoned, have been shot, or are now six feet in the ground.  This is a place where people shoot bullets with no regard for life, as if it is some type of video game. The brilliant thing about hip-hop is that it has allows for people at the absolute bottom of the socio-economic ladder, those who resort to selling drugs, violent robberies, and gang-banging to provide food, clothing, and shelter to gain riches and notoriety almost overnight through luxurious record contracts and it has also allowed their stories to be told via album releases and, more recently, YouTube. ‘The Third World Inside of America: A critical Look at the Southside of Chicago’ series will examine the social conditions in Chicago using primarily rapper-created lyrics and images coming, rappers in this area who expose the government’s role in maintaining poverty that in turn allows gang-violence to flourish.

Lil JOJO in the Field

First up is now deceased Rapper Lil JOJO who in his ’Shit Is Real’ song stated that “This shit is real in the field. So I keep the steel. You throw up a L you see how it feel.” Lil JOJO belonged to ‘BRICKSQUAD,’ a faction of the Gangsta Disciples. When he discussed being ‘in the field’ he is referring to selling drugs, being in enemy territory and partaking in the various activities typical of street organizations.  ‘To keep the steel” is to have a gun on you at all times, ready to preform hits if you are confronted by rival gang bangers.

The last line is very interesting, as Chief Keef and Lil Reese often begin their songs stating “Ls up.” This is them vocalizing their gang sign which represents the Lamron Faction of the Black Disciples. Both Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples go to war over drug territory, but many of the recent shootings have been retaliatory.  In this song, Lil JOJO threatens those who put up Ls, saying that those who dare to put up this sign up will be shot.

In JOJO’s “Put In Work’ track, he further describes his life on a day to day basis, stating that, “I’m counting so much money my fingers hurt. Shooting all these guns now my fingers hurt. You better duck ‘cause these shells hurt… Gang-BANG doing hits.” Indeed, the picture to the left shows LIL JOJO with a wad of cash and the other shows him with automatic weapons. As a participant in the illegal economy, black youth often bring in fast money – but that money comes at a price; through violence gangs must use to defend their enterprise. If anyone attempts to encroach on their territory, they are forced to carry out ‘hits’. To do a hit means to shoot and kill rival streets organizations.  As black youth becomes accustomed to the street market, competition is not carried out in the form of price cuts and ad campaigns. Gang members compete over territory to sell their products and services. With no other source of income, protecting ones block or corner becomes a matter of life and death.

The Root Cause of JOJO’s violent Lyrics

There is no doubt that Lil JOJO’s lyrics were outright violent. Yet, we must examine the structural conditions that contributed to these social conditions. JOJO was from Altgeld Gardens, a predominantly African-American housing project that has the majority of its residents living under the poverty-line. This community was originally built for African-American World War II veterans—the Chicago Housing Authority did not want them to reside in whites areas and thus from its inception ‘Altgeld Gardens’ was designed to be a segregated community. Currently, it is among the lowest income communities in America. [1]

 jojoripeAdditionally, The Chicago Housing Authority constructed the housing without adequate plumbing technology and would not even give this community the benefit of regular garbage disposable services.  This community was essentially neglected. Perhaps more appalling and disgusting is the place that the Chicago Housing Authority decided to build this housing project. [2]

Lil Jojo’s community was built in an area surrounded by 53 toxic waste facilities and 90% of the Chicago’s landfills. It was filled with toxins such as ammonia gas, lead, heavy metals, and xylene and stood surrounded by a chemical waste incinerator. The residents of this area have an extremely high rate of children born with brain tumors; an abnormal number of fetuses in the area were aborted because of brains developing outside of the skull. These social conditions the government is directly responsible for lead to the infant mortality rate sky-rocketing, but children fortunate enough to make it teenage years are disproportionately affected by asthma as a direct result of this toxic waste.[3]

Moreover, since the community was essentially neglected, you can rest assured that any opportunities for employment are slim to none.  The majority of these households were female headed and lived below the poverty line with many of these mothers turning to drugs to help ease the pain that they faced every day.  Many mothers work very hard and seek employment but simply cannot provide for their children which in turn lures black youth to the drug economy to be given a chance to have the things that most other elasticities are given at birth—things such as food and clothing.  Black women also face numerous institutional hurdles- Recent studies indicate that Black women only make 63 cents for every dollar that white males make for equal work[4]. Moreover, as a result of indoctrination from the capitalist media, many youth are very materialistic and want the latest clothes (I.E Jordan’s, POLO, etc.). These are all things that lure black youth into the drug economy which in turn leads to vicious gang wars. These drugs wars are all rooted in poverty and gang members feel like “men” when they defend their turf-because they have no real power over the larger social and political system of America.

The older brother of JOJO had this to say “It was a character and just an image that he was giving, because that image is hot. We’re not from the North Side. We’re not from the nice community. We’re from the ’hood. We’re from where mothafuckas are hungry and ain’t got shit and it’s a matter of whether you’re a nigga that do eat or don’t. The nigga that eat do negative things to get it.”[5]

Indeed, his older brother was correct Jimmy Lovine, the CEO of Interscope whom signed Chief Keef to a multi-million dollar contract (JOJO was seeking the same thing), currently owns stocks in various prison corporations. This means he profits off the imprisonment of black youth. The more black youth in jail, the fatter his pockets get.  In jail, many blacks are forced to work for cheap labor—this is essentially a modern form of slavery.

The sad truth is, many blacks live in social conditions where crime is the only way to have the basic necessities of life– thus, these record labels are able to bring talented black youth from rags to riches almost overnight – but the violent nature of their lyrics and their widespread popularity can only contribute to furthering the prison system  as more black youth begin to act our these images.

Lil Reese

Next is Lil Reese, a Chiraq rapper, who is the right hand man of the now imprisoned rapper Chief Keef. He states that:

I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.

In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap.

Where I’m from? Chiraq……..

..300 Normal Spelled Backwards.—Lil Reese

 As stated earlier, many people growing up in Chiraq have lost many friends and relatives from the ensuing gang wars. Lil Reese indicates that he too has been affected by this and states that this is reality, not ‘movie shit.’ He’s done this in efforts to distinguish himself from  your typical studio-gangsters who make idle threats and appear ‘thugish’ in rap videos only to go back to their fancy homes after the video shoot to a full refrigerator and comfortable couches in the suburbs. His phrase ‘turned into a savage’ refers to the mentality that many people in his crew have developed from living in such appalling social conditions. A recent study indicates that black youth in Chiraq who are exposed to such violence develop post-traumatic stress disorders comparable to troops returning home from military combat[7]. However, for these youth, this isn’t ‘post-traumatic’ because this violence is a continuous cycle that takes place in their neighborhood everyday. Further, unlike military troops, these youth never receive visits from psychologists to aid them. As Lil Reese stated, “A body getting dropped everyday – this shit is real.”

A body getting dropped refers to people dying from gunshots. The sad truth is that many youth have absolutely nothing to lose within the confides of the current social system. Indeed, when you watch a Lil Reese video, in his hood you’ll see many shirts displaying “R.I.P.” to the names of various friends and “Free”  to the names of various people locked away. Living in such violent social conditions has a profound impact on the psychology of black youth, this is precisely why after Lil JOJO was shot, Chief Keef responded by saying,“HahahahahhahahahahahahahaahhAAHAHAHAHA” #RichNiggaShit “Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.”

    The Root Cause of Lil Reese’s Violent Lyrics

Both Chief Keef and Lil Reese grew up in Englewood. They would probably be surprised to hear that their now impoverished and violent community was once predominately white and affluent. Moreover, in addition to being mostly white, it was once a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. As America began to integrate and African-Americans entered deep into the Chicago areas—this once predominately white area began organizing violently against the African-American communities. They then formed a neighborhood associations with slogans like: “America for whites, Africa The Only Place for Niggers.”  They then went on to say “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages.” While these whites portrayed African-Americans as savages, all the behavior that whites partook in to defend against integration were of that very nature. After a rumor that a house in Englewood was going to be purchased by a black family, whites began to carry out bombings, physical assaults, and arson on black residents for simply trying to live their lives. After putting up posters saying “NEGROES INVADING” a bunch of white racists came together starting the “EngleWood Race Riots of 1949”. As African-Americans continued to move in, “a white plight” took place as whites moved to suburban areas, leaving the black community in absolute turmoil, chaos, and social decay[8].

Now, I’ve constantly heard the argument that goes something like this: “Lil Reese was born in 1993, those riots took place in 1949.” As if it had no effect on him.  White people had the benefit of passing wealth to their children who could then pass it on to their children; they also had the luxury of a stable home and other infrastructure. As a result of these race riots, blacks who were affected   were not given the same opportunities nor has the racist system that has been designed to disenfranchise blacks from employment been abolished. These riots and systemic obstacles left the black community in absolute economic turmoil. The poverty that resulted from it allowed the illegal economy to takeover as the number one employer for black youth. Similarly, when peaceful African-Americans first moved to Englewood, a racist of the white, anti-intergrationist stated that” I think they[Blacks] are savages.” Now, over 30 years later Lil Reese embraces this image, stating that “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.” Why  else would Lil JOJO, Chief Keef, and Lil Reese all have lyrics basically equating to “gonna get these guns, and I’mma kill these niggas”? The lyrics resemble the rhetoric of white racists of the past. This is all a result of blacks internalizing hatred and racial stereotypes of the society they live in.

1)http://www.plp.org/challenge/2009/11/13/derrion-albert-is-not-racist-capitalisms-first-or-last-victi.html, Derrion Albert Is Not Racist Capitalism’s First or Last Victim

2) Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?id=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1

3)Working Party on Environmental Performance,  http://www.oecd.org/environment/country-reviews/33848718.pdf#page=27

4) http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-affirmative-action, 11 Facts About Affirmative Action

5) Chief Keef and Lil Joj0 http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/15007423-418/chief-keef-and-lil-jojo-a-rap-feud-straight-outta-englewood.html

6)http://www.sohh.com/2013/01/i_aint_dissing_chief_keef_im_dissing_jim.html,  “I Ain’t Dissing Chief Keef, I’m Dissing Jimmy Iovine”

7)I See Everything Through This Tragedy” February 12, 2012, 11:00 am ET by Alex Kotlowitz http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/interrupters/i-see-everything-through-this-tragedy/

8)Black Literature of Revolutionary Protest from Chicago’s South Side: A Local …

By Michelle Yvonne Gordon,http://books.google.com/books?id=nMwuX6wKz40C&pg=PA199&dq=chicago+englewood&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nqgOUdXxDoH89QTAgIHwCQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=chicago%20englewood&f=false

The Making of Chiraq

herb43The name Chiraq, which is frequently employed the black Chicagoans, has attracted much criticism, with some arguing that its utilization glorifies an urban culture of violence. Lil Reese, who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, describes his upbringing by forcefully testifying, “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage […] Where I’m from? This Chiraq.” In numerous rap videos, these self-proclaimed savages residing within the enclave of Chiraq appear brandished with weapons that are suitable for military combat. Their T-shirts often have insignia that reads ”R.I.P______,” with the blank filled by the names of deceased peers. “Chiraq” is just one of many of these ghettos; the same lifestyle can be found in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and other urban communities. In Lil Bibby’s pivotal track entitled “Raised Up,”  he asserts, ”We some savages, that’s what the hood made us.” Lil Bibby and Lil Herb describe the dominant mode of life in inner-city ghettoes, which is one of pure survival where youth must  bear the brunt of a chaotic environment that consists of coping  with the stress that comes with living in and out of jail, violently protecting ones stake in the drug market, and dealing with potentially lethal run-ins with law enforcement.

In the public’s imagination, these ghettoes are home to black welfare queens who are leeches on the economic system, as well as a remberinghadiya“black criminal deviant underclass” who carry out horrific acts of violence in the form of drive-by-shootings, car jackings, and burglaries. The linguistic choice to dub their areas of the city “Chiraq” by Chicago’s youth conveys a fundamental reality about the status of black Americans; it reveals that they constitute a segregated space in  the United states, effectively challenging the commonly held belief in the post-Civil Rights era of America in which  institutional racism is said to be gradually fading as we move towards a  more progressive society, heading more towards  accomplishing  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream with every passing year. After the death of Chicago public school student Hadiya Pendleton, President Barack Obama made the tragic death a mere issue of “gun-violence” and utilized it to advocate tougher gun control legislation, without acknowledging the oppression that went into creating the violent conditions in her community.

The Violence that Created the Violence

chicagogreatmigrationThe ghetto and all of the sporadic anti-social behavior, which is a product of perpetual violence (both physical and institutional), continues to create the social conditions needed for gang conflicts. In 1870, after legal plantation slavery was abolished, 80% of black Americans resided in the rural south; these families were forced to endure an oppressive sharecropping system which had largely replaced slavery. They were marred in poverty with a lack of education while having to cope with a series of repressive black code laws which were the precursor to Jim Crow. During the great migration, African-Americans began moving to Chicago in search of better opportunities, but would instead be met with violence.

 

The White Circle League, formed with the mission of “keeping white neighborhoods free from negroes,” regularly terrorized Africanchicagoraceriots-Americans in Chicago.  Between 1917 and 1921, the bombing of African-American homes occurred once every twenty days on average. In 1919, an African-American boy who was swimming was killed as a result of whites throwing heavy rocks at him. When blacks sought to report the incident to police, they themselves were arrested while the white individuals who had killed this young man went unpunished.   As African-Americans began peacefully protesting, whites began to violently assault them, forming mobs that eventually sought to harm African-Americans through various avenues, from attacking patients in black hospitals to setting fire to the homes of blacks. The Irish Hamburg Athletic Club was among the groups who made an effort to kill many blacks; a man who would eventually become mayor decades later – Richard J. Daley – was an active member of this group. These violent attacks left many African-Americans homeless, causing them to lose the relatively small amount of wealth that they had come up north to accumulate. Furthermore, the Irish gangs who carried out these brutal attacks would in mass numbers be recruited to the Chicago Police Department.

 

cjocagpb;aclbe;tThe Chicago Housing Authority also implemented the “Neighborhood Composition Rule,” which ensured that blacks would be segregated and confined to housing in the black belt. The housing for black Americans lacked plumbing and was routinely neglected; the neighborhoods did not even receive the benefit of regular garbage disposal services. In addition to being near toxic waste dumps, the decrepit housing set aside for blacks drastically increased the levels of infant mortality.  Even after the neighborhood composition rule ended, whites would take to violence to ensure segregation.

 

In Englewood, the  birthplace of rappers Chief Keef & Lil Reese, was once a bastion of white supremacy. After African-Americans had
nnegroes
 merely visited the neighborhood, due to fears that a home was going to be “sold to niggers,” neighborhood associations campaigned with slogans like “America for whites, Africa is the onl y place for niggers.” One white person being interviewed argued that, “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages. ” With protest signs stating, ”Negroes Invading,” whites began the ‘Englewood Race Riots of 1949,’ not only carrying brutal acts of violence against African-American citizens, but also finding black residential homes to arson, which left many blacks dead, homeless, and losing all of their property. All of this set the precedence of the creation of the ghettos within the city due to the huge wealth loss that black families had struggled to gain. White Flight  took place and years later Lil reese would rap,”I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage. In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap. Where I’m from? Chiraq.”

The Failure of Civil Rights

tenants A week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Richard J. Daley, who was part of an Irish Club which routinely terrorized blacks, would become the Mayor, and his racism would be backed with institutional support. Daley ordered his police force and U.S. army troops to cripple and maim outraged black citizens. Nonetheless, African-Americans won some concessions; the Fair Housing Act was passed, allegedly attempting to address housing discrimination.Under the Fair Housing Act, African-Americans could sue if they were subjected to housing discrimination. However, such legislation did nothing on a practical level to restructure American society. Indeed, think about the capitol, time, and effort that the average African-American single parent would have to expend to pursue such a case in ‘job discrimination’ or ‘housing discrimination,’ all while struggling with what comes from living in the ghetto.

 

While the “No Niggers” signs and overt visible signs of racism declined, the act could do nothing to change the everyday racially discriminatory practices of realtors and city planners who would routinely blackhousign4operate along radicalized lines. Douglas S. Massey points out that realtors had unspoken assumptions in their clients’ interest which kept “unwanted” elements (blacks) out of affluent neighborhoods, fearing the professional repercussions from their clientele. This confirms that, despite legislative changes ending overt signs of racism, such legislation would have no effect in transforming the cultural attitudes and daily practices of institutions of city planning and realtors who would continue to operate along racist lines; in summation, relators were found to, and have continued to, keep African-Americans away from white neighborhoods despite the passing of the Fair Housing Act. The sociologist Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.”

In fact, according to the current trend, blacks in Chicago will still compromise a segregated group as far into the future as 2042. Douglas Massey, states, ”Ironically, within a large, diverse, and highly mobile post-industrial society such as the United States, blacks living in the heart of the ghetto are among the most isolated people on earth.” Born witlilreesehout a silver spoon, in the ghetto, the typical lifestyle of a resident consists of languishing in run down areas, being pressured to hustle on the streets, carrying out “hits” to protect their block as a result of the lethal underground drug economy, all resulting in a continuous cycle of going in and out of jail; many individuals born in these areas know they may  face an early death, and they do not expect to live past eighteen.

 

 

The segregated status of black Americans, which separates them from white America, protects white Americans from the social violenceLeondore Draperproblems, drugs, gang wars, and violence, which are a result of an unjust social order. Meanwhile, innocent  African-American women, such as Chicago Public School Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot down by stray bullets on her way home from school, and Leondore Draper, who was shot coming back home from an anti-violence  campaign that she helped to organize, bear the brunt of a racially segregated society. The complicity and perpetration of this racial segregation includes both conservative right wing forces, many of whom deny racism is even a viable factor in the social mobility of blacks, often blaming “immoral black culture.” Also complicit are  liberal left wing forces seeking to liberalize America while  reinforcing the violence against African-American  by spreading the narrative of “steady progress” for blacks and thus obfuscating their true plight and the desperate living conditions they live within.

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American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

Making of the Second Ghetto, Race * Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch