We tell stories to help us make sense of the world. These hundreds and thousands of stories we tell ourselves and each other make up our world view – how we process our tiny place within the world. Some stories are meant to inspire. Some stories are meant to teach us deep lessons about humanity. Other stories attempt to explain the phenomenon we see. The story or narrative we tell ourselves often drives our thoughts and actions around a concept or topic. Stories are powerful in that they often draw us in, inviting us to be a part of the story’s arc through time.
A story that has drawn me in for the last 20 years is the story of the inner city.
I believe this to be the case because the story I tell myself about the inner city rarely matches what I see as the generally accepted narrative.
I’ve been a fan of the Chicago Bears for a very long time. The prevailing narrative for the Chicago Bears over the last decade is that they suck. They can’t figure out how to get a quarterback that doesn’t turn the ball over constantly and, because of that, they lose a lot more games than they win. Living in Wisconsin, I am reminded more than I care to be that the Bears aren’t very good. I’m never confused about that narrative. I’m hopeful the story will change some day, but, sitting here, I’m not hopeful it will change any time soon.
One of the few narratives my fellow Milwaukeeans hold on to more dearly than my Bears sucking, is that my neighborhood sucks. By sucks I mean it’s a place to be avoided, a place to be feared because it is so dangerous, and a place where bad people do bad things. Unlike the story we tell ourselves about the Bears, I have little evidence to support the validity of the story we tell ourselves about 53206 and other inner city spaces.
Living here for 15 years, it seems to me that the greatest contribution to this false narrative is essentially the same as any misunderstood topic. We lack understanding of how we arrived in our current set of circumstances, we fail to empathize with those in the middle of the story arcs current iteration, and a vision for the story’s next chapter, a chapter that is significantly better, is murky at best.
That is one purpose we have for the podcast. On the 53206 Cast we try to help listeners understand what living in the inner city is actually like because we want to engage in the process of developing a new narrative around our inner city spaces because it is within that new narrative that our attitudes toward my neighbors and our actions, conscious or subconscious, will naturally steer all of us toward that next chapter – one where areas of concentrated poverty and hyper segregation are a thing of the past.
If you are interested in helping rewrite the narrative around 53206 and inner city neighborhoods in general, feel free to check out the 53206 Cast or reach out to Meg (@meganme) and I (@AlexBruzan) on Twitter. If you are interested in rewriting the narrative around the Chicago Bears, good luck. I don’t see that one changing any time soon.