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We witnessed our first shooting in the neighborhood today. Sara and I were down at the corner getting Italian ices. Suddenly I am aware of sirens. It’s a fairly commonplace sound around here, but this was different. There were a lot of sirens. We turn around to see police cars swarming on our block like hungry mosquitoes on a bag of blood. Two teenage kids come sprinting out from between two houses. One takes off up our street, the other crosses and heads between a couple houses to the next block. Within a minute or two, there were two or three dozen cop cars buzzing up and down the streets with sentinels at each intersection. Three have boxed in an green sedan, recently abandoned in favor of fleeing on foot.

We walked back down the block, eating our Italian ices. We stopped to ask Stacey, who was standing on her front porch with a furrowed brow, what had happened. She said she’d heard about six shots from a block or two west and immediately went inside. Policemen and squad cars continued combing the streets. She cautioned us to get back inside, and we heeded her warning.

As we were opening our front gate, a policeman walked past. He stared at us a moment, then asked incredulously, “You live there?” We told him we did, and he replied, “You’re brave souls.”

Sara and I went inside, pulled up the chairs to our front-row seats in the sun room, and tried to make sense of it all. We marveled at the speed at which an innumerable number of cop cars suddenly descended upon our neighborhood. We were also both troubled by our interaction with the officer.

He clearly singled us out because we were white. We’re brave souls for living here, he said. Why? What about the other hundreds of people in our neighborhood? Why are they not brave souls, too? Is it because they aren’t brave or because they don’t have souls?

I’ve heard people call what we are doing a number of things: really cool, crazy, dumb, admirable, reckless. We’re now adding “brave” to that list. We are not brave simply because we live in this neighborhood. The officer didn’t congratulate everyone he passed on being brave. He congratulated us because we were white. A black person living in a lower income neighborhood in Chicago is normal. A white person living there is brave.

I guess more than anything else, my heart grieves over the incident. It only seems to reinforce what I have heard said, that racism didn’t die with the end of Civil Rights movement. It only changed form.

It is for reasons such as this that I am here.

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