"[Paul] Street doubts that a just society is possible under capitalism or without reparations that acknowledge and reverse the 'windfall bestowed on sections of the white community by "past" racist policies and practices."' —Deanna Isaacs, October 25
The photo of Kid Sister that led off last week's Arts & Entertainment section was taken by Andreas Larsson. His credit was inadvertently omitted and we apologize for the error.
What Debt Do You Owe?
This sent in response to Paul Street's race reparations analogy, where one poker player starts playing by the rules after 300 years of cheating but keeps his ill-wrought chips ["The Racist Problem" by Deanna Isaacs, October 25]. In the chess game, there are two players. In the U.S. social-political game, there are hundreds of millions, with attendant personal variables changing the mix throughout history. In assessing a slavery reparations tax, how do we treat descendants of white people who did everything they could to end slavery? Slavery would not have ended without fiery commitment from white abolitionists who detested it. In between the two, what of those who took no part in the crime, yet risked their homes, families, and lives to provide safe passage to their black brothers? What of the hundreds of thousands who ultimately gave their lives to end slavery? Do we really believe the bloodiest war in U.S. history was fought over the contours of federalism?
Race reparations feel like paying an overdue debt, and is unobjectionable as such, provided the one writing the check is the one who owes the bill. But how do we determine who owes what? Blaming every white person alive today, based on the color of his skin, is no better than making other critical (and illegal) race-based assumptions such as creditworthiness, suitability as a neighbor, proclivity toward crime, work ethic, etc.
Aside from the intellectual compromise in meting out punishment according to race, practical considerations are just as vexing. If reparations are to be taxed on just white people, and given to just black, what of the racially blended, which is our fastest growing demographic segment? Since I'm a little of both, do I trace my lineage to apportion my racial composition to figure whether I owe a debt or deserve a credit? If I'm half and half, do I give myself a dollar? But wait, if I'm a woman, since women were legal chattel of their husbands and had no vote until long after slavery had ended, am I exempt in any event? Finally, if I'm gay, the last minority against whom discrimination is still legal under federal law and most state laws in the U.S., do I get a tax break to offset the reparations bill, since I'm paying for civil rights violations while enjoying no civil rights of my own?
What percentage of those reading this today would give their lives to end gross and cruel injustice? Before you answer, ask yourself what you have done to end the illegal bombing in Iraq (or Afghanistan, pick a war, any war). If you have watched your government bomb innocent people, tear them from their loved ones, and keep them behind bars for years without minimal due process, and yet have done absolutely nothing to stop it, you have more in common with our past than you realize.
And a Nice Rack for All?
I found the juxtaposition of articles in your [October 25] issue extremely amusing. You had a well-written article about the mayor's budget, indicating wide-scale endemic corruption in City Hall ["Thar She Blows" by Ben Joravsky], a wonderful profile on systemic racism in Chicago ["The Racist Problem" by Deanna Isaacs], then ... a story about a guy who got his bike smashed by a bus ["Racked" by Edward McClelland]. It's not that I don't have sympathy. It's never good to have your Italian racing bike destroyed (I don't know what I'd do if MY Italian racing bike ever got into trouble!). But ... come on. There are people being infinitely fucked by this country, city, system, etc in so many terrible ways it hurts the heart to contemplate. And yet, I have to read an article about a massage therapist who's real, real mad (mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad!) that the bus bike racks are substandard. Really? You think? They're threatening to shut half the damn transport system down! Talk about pointing to the leak when the flood is coming!
I understand your need to appeal to the bike hipster demographic but is there any way you can take the whole thing a little less seriously? I truly appreciate all of the wonderful investigative reporting the Reader does. But cut it out with the bike hipster crybaby stuff. Like Bender says, "The world's an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time." Maybe next time, do an article about the south-side family who's had their house burglarized for the fourth time this year. Granted, it wouldn't contain the words "Italian racing bike" but at least it would mean something.
An OlympicSize Reserve
Let's also not forget [re "Thar She Blows" by Ben Joravsky, October 25] that, per the Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com/services/newspaper/printedition/thursday/chi-skyway25oct25,0,272886.story), Daley is holding exactly $500 million of Skyway cash in reserve to help "maintain the city's financial strength." Just coincidence that this is the exact figure the IOC requested in public funds, lest private funding fall short?
From OurOnline Readers
Re "Racked" by Edward McClelland, October 25
If the CTA provides bike racks, it has an obligation to make certain that they actually support bikes.
That said, Mr. Walker, having apparently lived in the city for some time, should know that, merely because the CTA has an obligation to do something, there is no reason to assume that it will actually do the thing in question. C'mon, the NTSB just found that the CTA doesn't even maintain the tracks that its trains run on—what in God's name makes anyone think it's going to make certain that bike racks attached to buses work properly, especially when the only damage likely to result is to the property of mere CTA riders, who don't matter to the mayor and therefore don't matter to Carole Brown or Ron Huberman.
I'm inclined to have some sympathy for those posters who suggest that it is, at least, charmingly optimistic to trust an $1,800 bike to a rack on the front of a bus maintained by the CTA.