There is a curious discrepancy between the concern expressed on my behalf by a few folks about the mask requirement being dropped for public transportation, which affects me as an Uber driver, and a complete absence of expressed concern about the recent spike in violence in neighborhoods I drive in to routinely that I actually find more alarming. It’s the kind of omission that a critical theorist is supposed to notice; it signifies what folks are actually concerned about, not so much about the violence in these neighborhoods or, really, even about my safety, but about COVID-19.
I’m fully vaccinated and double-boosted against COVID-19; I have noted repeatedly that my medical history suggests I wouldn’t be seriously affected even if I did come down with the disease. Indeed, I have been far more concerned that I would be asymptomatic and unknowingly spread the disease to vulnerable people. The violence, on the other hand, is no longer confined to hours past my self-imposed curfew, and it is something I am utterly defenseless against.
The city’s youth didn’t create a culture of violence, the mayor [Ed Gainey] insisted, but they inherited it. Stopping the shootings will take a shift in the culture that has led to teenagers being able to carry and access guns, he added.
“Trust me, the kids are not making and manufacturing these guns. It’s not them,” Mr. Gainey said, adding at another point in the interview that a culture of widespread drug use didn’t arrive overnight but has been a half-century in the making.
And I’m similarly disappointed with Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, whose approach appears to focus on crime and guns rather than the very well-documented underlying causes of crime, even when his own residents repeat those causes.
Fig. 1. Dynamic map of gratuitous weaponry around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, created by author, updated as emplacements are found and photographed.
Even if we take on the issue of gun trafficking by itself, the gun industry is clearly only part of the problem around Pittsburgh, where guns are putatively placed to honor veterans but most commonly around neighborhoods where poor and working class Black and white people are in conflict, where Blue Lives Matter and Donald Trump campaign flags are common, where it is so amply clear that people—including women—confuse their guns for their penises. We celebrate violence and then are shocked when we get violence.
- Omar Abdel-Baqui, “Uber Drops Mask Requirement After Judge Voids Public Transportation Mandate,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-drops-mask-requirement-after-judge-voids-public-transportation-mandate-11650369863; Sarah Alessandrini, “Uber and Lyft drop mask requirements for drivers, passengers,” CNBC, April 19, 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/19/uber-drops-mask-requirements-passengers.html; Lyft, “Update to Lyft’s Health Safety Guidelines,” April 19, 2022, https://www.lyft.com/blog/posts/update-to-lyfts-health-safety-guidelines; Tierney Sneed, “CDC mask mandate for travelers no longer in effect following judge’s ruling, official says,” CNN, April 18, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/18/politics/cdc-mask-mandate-ruling/index.html; Uber, “Our commitment to safety,” April 19, 2022, https://www.uber.com/us/en/safety/?stream=top↩
- Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; Mick Stinelli, Julian Routh, and Ed Blazina, “North Side residents describe chaos at Airbnb before mass shooting as concerns mount over Pittsburgh gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-mass-shooting-reactions-north-side-residents-east-allegheny-suismon-street-madison-avenue/stories/202204170174; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/↩
- Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/↩
- Julian Routh, “Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, in wake of North Side mass shooting, says ‘we can’t give up’ in efforts to stem gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 21, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2022/04/21/pittsburgh-mayor-ed-gainey-north-side-mass-shooting-reaction-gun-violence-wesa-interview/stories/202204210104↩
- Megan Guza, “Gainey: Ending violence in Pittsburgh will take citywide approach,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 21, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/gainey-ending-violence-in-pittsburgh-will-take-citywide-approach/; Julian Routh, “Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, in wake of North Side mass shooting, says ‘we can’t give up’ in efforts to stem gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 21, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2022/04/21/pittsburgh-mayor-ed-gainey-north-side-mass-shooting-reaction-gun-violence-wesa-interview/stories/202204210104↩
- Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127; Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).↩