Many people have become very comfortable with calling America’s third largest city a nickname that many residents have deemed offensive. Chicago, as of late, has not received much favor with mainstream media and Chicagoans should be curious to know why. The term “Chiraq” is a combination of the city of Chicago and the Western Asian country Iraq which has primarily become a war zone. While the name ‘Chiraq’ doesn’t settle well with many residents, the origin of the title is unknown. It has been greatly adopted into the world of hip hop as many rappers have used it to describe the mean streets of Chicago. One of those rappers is Grammy-Award winner Nicki Minaj who recently released a song entitled “Chiraq” featuring Lil Herb. Although Nicki Minaj is not from Chicago, she is from Queens, NY which is also known for their crime status. ‘Chiraq’ may be the term that describes the life of a rapper but it doesn’t describe the life of respectable citizens of the great city of Chicago.
So why did Chicago get the bad rep from mainstream media?
Chicago’s violent headlines and its staggering crime rates surfaced nationally around the time of the George Zimmerman trial as pro-gun activists debated with anti-gun activists over the Stand Your Ground Law and the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. Particularly alarming was the segment of the Bill O’Reilly Show which gained national attention as he specifically pointed toward Chicago’s strict gun laws and the high acts of crime in the Black community. O’Reilly’s point was made clear as he basically called hypocrisy during an interview with a guest from the NAACP. In general, reporters covered Chicago’s crime updates constantly as it’s the hometown of President Obama’s; the right-wing stood with their views against national gun restrictions while the opposition argued the justification of why stricter gun laws are necessary; either or Chicago is far from the “murder capital of the world” or “Chiraq”.
In early 2014, Chicago’s Chief of Police as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Chicago’s crime rate had decreased by 25%. Although other statements by the police chief were greatly exaggerated, the fact remains that Chicago’s crime is slowly but surely coming down. Chicago will never be Mayberry but it is improving. As a matter of fact, the highest crime year in the history of Chicago that has been recorded thus far was in 1974 where 970 people were killed that year. After this year the crime rate gradually dropped and went into a yo-yo effect where crime was up and down but eventually continued to drop until the early 1990s.
In 1990 there were a total of 851 deaths and it increased in 1991 when the death total was 926 that year. In 1992 there were 943 homicides and again the yo-yo effect occurred where in 1993 there were 855; in 1994 there were 931; and in 1995 there were 828 deaths. It was at this point Chicago’s crime rate gradually began decreasing leaving Chicago’s crime rate in the year 2013 at 415. The numbers may still be high to many but this is a dramatic improvement in more ways than one.
With all of this new-found information about Chicago, the hype can be summed up as a political tactic from both the left and the right and the term “Chiraq” is only embraced by those who are uninformed and misguided. The most violent city in America is Detroit, MI where the homicide rate is at 48% and the total violent crime in the year of 2013 totaled 2,137. Do you think a song called “Deraq” will hit the airwaves anytime soon? One could only wonder.