Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Yup, MLK once lived just down the street

"I have never in my life seen such hate. Not in Mississippi or Alabama." —The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had recently moved into a slum in the impoverished West Side Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, discussing a march into the racist enclave of Marquette Park.

As a Chicagoan, you'd think I'd know, but I just learned in this Newsweek column—which explains how Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't like and often outmaneuvered the civil rights leader—that King lived on the very street where I grew up. Of course I was born five years later, and my family lived 47 blocks north of King's apartment at 1550 South Hamlin in North Lawndale, known back in 1966 as "Slumdale." But my neighborhood — which could have been called "Lawndale-ski" — was like everywhere else in the city, hanging tough to the segregation that King discovered when he moved here.

The Newsweek piece explains that racial problems still exist in the U.S., but progress has been made in Chicago. Following are some of the author's points, followed by one Chicagoan's rebuttals:

While Chicago's public-school system remains troubled and stubbornly segregated, it now boasts several highly successful schools and realistic hope for more.
"Yeah," says Stan, the Streets and Sans Answer Man, "these schools are meant for middle class families, so they don't flee to the suburbs when their kids reach school-age."

Housing, too, is still largely segregated by neighborhood and is unaffordable for the poor and working class, with long waiting lists for subsidies.
"Show me an integrated neighborhood," says Stan, "and I'll show you Evanston."

But notorious housing projects like the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green have been mostly torn down and replaced by townhouse-style public housing units, a third of them owned by the residents.
"Actually," Stan snorts, "these neighborhoods are fast becoming home of very expensive properties. The poor are being funneled to other poor neighborhoods in the city or, the city hopes, to the surrounding suburbs."

The column credits our mayor, saying Chicago is "a much healthier city than it was in Boss Daley's time." And that's true, according to Stan. "If you make decent money, there's a new condo waiting for you. If you're poor, especially if you're black, there's not much room for you here in young Daley's Chicago."


Anonymous he said she said...

are you kidding? You should see the video footage of Dr. King's march through the neighborhood. It is a like a parade but instead of candy being tossed by the marchers, there are bottles, rocks and a lot of nasty verbal assaults being tossed by the white folks lining the street. It is disturbing to see ten year old girls screaming hate and old men and women all livid and riled up. But in a way, at least back then it was open and you knew who was what, while now it is a lot more subtle... mostly draped on the fringes of the republican party.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous jenska said...

I disagree that racism is political -- to me it seems more classist. Does any middle class or upper class neighborhood want mixed income housing? Of course not. People everywhere in this country fear low-income residents living near them.

7:53 PM  

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