A Mugging on Lake Street

A veteran investigative reporter looks into his own beating and finds himself confronting harsh and lingering questions of race.

John Conroy in Chicago Magazine:

ScreenHunter_05 Sep. 03 08.58 I was ambushed on the West Side last year, an attack that on its face made no sense. I’d never seen my assailant before; he’d never seen me; no words were exchanged; nothing was taken. Like many crime victims, I wanted the incident, which changed my life for the worse, to have some meaning. I’m white, he is black, and in time it was hard not to wonder if race had something to do with it.

The attack came at about 4:15 on May 9th, a sunny Friday afternoon. I had ridden my bike to the Loop for a meeting, and on my way back I took my usual route—Fulton west to the Garfield Park Conservatory, then over to Lake Street. As I neared the intersection of Lake and Laramie, I noticed a group of perhaps six teenagers on a corner.

Pedestrians on Lake Street are low on a cyclist’s list of potential hazards. The trestles supporting the Green Line, the behavior they inspire among drivers, and the condition of the pavement command more attention. The street here passes through an industrial strip, not an area where people hang out, and there was nothing sinister about this group. One kid with long hair looked my way, smiling broadly. Another stepped off the curb and paused, as if he had changed his mind about crossing the street in the heavy traffic, his body angled away from me as though he might now head back to the curb. I kept pedaling.

In my next conscious moment, I was dimly aware that I was facedown on the street. There was blood in my mouth. Someone was holding my arm, helping me up. I looked up to see that I was near the curb and my Good Samaritan was a middle-aged African American man. “Sit in my car,” he said.

More here. [Thanks to David Schneider.]