Shameless is a television series that I got hooked on and found myself binge watching last month. It follows the Gallagher’s, a close-knit family that lives and thrives in the Southside of Chicago, who give a new perspective to a different way of life. The Gallagher’s, live a life full of poverty, addicts, and violence which has them struggling for success on a daily basis. Though this show is very much non-fiction, I’ve heard many people that were not fans because they found it “too real”. Some nights, I would have to turn it off because it got uncomfortable. The type of uncomfortable you feel when you can’t imagine or don’t understand something. This uncomfort I was feeling steamed from they lifestyle of those living in what we call “the ghetto”.
The Southside of Chicago doesn’t offer much to those on the outside, but to those who grew up and live there, it is full of family and protection. This so called “ghetto” lifestyle works for them, and to some, it is all they know.
In the final seasons of Shameless, we see a couple that moves into the neighborhood and tries to buy all of the houses on the block that have cardboard boxes as front doors, plastic wrap as windows, and are all around falling apart—including the Gallagher’s house. This couple sees tremendous growth and opportunity for the Southside of Chicago. But the townies aren’t buying into it.
Outside of this television show and currently, the upper class in Chicago is trying to move into the Southside of Chicago in hopes to give this neighborhood a new light, transform from the ground up, and build a new confidence. Private schools are going up on every corner and visionaries are buying run down houses attempting to flip them—coming out on top. However, no one asked for this. While there isn’t anything wrong with private schools and a great education, for most of the natives on the Southside, the only education they can afford for their children is the free kind. Because of the increase in private education, public education is now not being funded and around 50 public elementary schools in the area have been shut down. Aside from schooling, if the houses in the neighborhood keep getting bought and turned into million dollar homes, the natives to the Southside will have nowhere to live and nowhere to go.
When you hear or read headlines about the Southside, it is always affiliated with violence and gangs, but there must be more to the area than just that. Those who are born and raised in the Southside will defend the Southside until the day they die. This speaks volumes. So, before we come in with our jack hammer and tool belt all high and mighty, let’s take the time to realize that though this is a different lifestyle, it is a lifestyle that works for them.