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Just Another Example of Whitewashed History



Mike Koskiewicz challenged my letter to the Reader in which I criticized the relative lack of coverage of the Latino commu-nity in the Logan Square issue of August 10 ["Speaking of Displaced Communities," Letters, August 31]. He claimed that I ignored the history of how "Latinos actually displaced an established core of Scandinavian and eastern European families in the late 1960s and early 1970s." Aside from his personal attacks, it is important to recognize that his major theme here is a constant refrain in many neighborhoods facing gentrification. It also rewrites history, so here is a brief history lesson for Mr. Koskiewicz.

White flight is not displacement. By the late 50s the housing stock in Logan was in decline well before Latinos arrived. The children of European immigrants were doing better economically, and already choosing to move to the suburbs rather than improve their old neighborhoods. When Latinos arrived on the scene, whites left en masse rather than share space with these new immigrants. The national economic downturn of the 70s and deindustrialization meant that the jobs once available to recent arrivals from Scandinavia and eastern Europe were fast disappearing, and also harder to find for those not considered white in America. Meanwhile slumlords let their buildings on Kedzie Boulevard rot rather than upgrade them for a bunch of dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking families. I know because I passed those gutted shells on the way to Darwin School every day and now they rent for $1,200. I remember the Jousters, a white gang on our block of Sawyer who were proud to advocate "white power" and attack Latinos on sight. I had not heard of groups of Latin Kings chasing yuppie couples down Milwaukee anytime lately. Ask yourself why white folks left Logan Square in the 60s and 70s. Then ask yourself why they are coming back here now. People who compare Latinos struggling to remain in their neighborhoods with white folks who were struggling to escape from them are suffering from a mental reversal of history. They ignore the issue of who has power. But it has become a pretty common way to whitewash the present.

Where is this coming from, and what does this whitewash accomplish? It is a political project that lumps poor Latinos together and dismisses their presence. Logan Square going "full circle" implies a natural return to a majority white community that would cure the "sour note" Mr. Koskiewicz hears in recognizing the past three or more generations of Latinos. His assertion that the Cuban influence was "more significant" than the majority of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans who made up the community reveals more about his politics and his endorsement of the "benevolent" Reagan than his ability to count, which was my point. Incidentally, he also refers to a Cinco de Mayo celebration in the 70s in Humboldt Park, when it actually took place on the south side. I did not need to be an anthropologist to remember that history, or to know the difference between a Mexican and a Puerto Rican holiday. I just had to be a kid from the block.

Jesse Mumm


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