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Letters and Comments, February 17, 2011


Segregated City

Re: "Separate, Unequal, and Ignored: Racial segregation remains Chicago's most fundamental problem. Why isn't it an issue in the mayor's race?" by Steve Bogira, February 10

A good deal of resistance to public efforts at desegregation, besides obvious conservative biases, is mere fatigue at the repeated failures of housing and community development programs to break the generational cycles of persistent poverty, crime, single-parent households, and academic failure. Justifying public expenditure is very difficult in the current economic environment for even successful programs, and when the tax burden is placed disproportionately on the middle class, as in Chicago, additional spending on rent vouchers or affordable housing is politically impossible. When people think it doesn't work, they're not going to spend more on it hoping for a change. Del Valle makes the best point in this article—schools and programming for young children and their parents is the best investment of time and money to end poverty and the racial isolation that accompanies it in Chicago. People rarely overcome the impact and limitations of their upbringing and education, but children can be taught to think of themselves differently. —Juansinmiedo

One factor that is ignored here is the (non) role of the members of the City Council in designing effective measures to increase racial and economic integration. Some of this legislative inaction is probably a by-product of the Voting Rights Act, which has encouraged residential segregation by requiring "Black" and "Latino" wards with large enough majorities of one demographic group to be able to elect "one of their own." In the last redistricting, millions of dollars were spent on a lawsuit (brought, ironically, by a group of aldermen including now-Cook County president Preckwinkle, and represented by now-President Obama's law firm), which redrew the wards on the southwest side to further racially segregate them. If the population of the city were spread out in truly random fashion, certain politicians would no longer be able to get elected. "Follow the votes." —Pugh Dendum

There is still plenty of discrimination as far as where people live in Chicago. If you are living in a neighborhood where 99 percent of the residents are one color, you are going to experience some less than welcoming attitudes from some folks. There is a lot more tolerance than there was 40 years ago in certain ways, but when you talk about who's your neighbor lots of people are uncomfortable having a neighbor who is the only black or white family around. I can see why many black families that can well afford to live in a middle-class neighborhood still gravitate to a mostly black community. You really can't expect those with means to live in a ghetto, regardless of their skin color.

I don't think government can do too much about that. That is something that is going to take time and effort by community leaders everywhere to preach not just tolerance, but inclusion. The next mayor can and should address the issues of education, services, and basic safety that have made it very difficult for anyone born in a segregated, economically depressed neighborhood to break out of the cycle. —Uncle Joe

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