Friday, June 27, 2008

Cash Rules Everything Around Me?

I am currently reading "There are no white picket fences here: structural racism and community revitalization methods in Cabrini Green" by Lakeasha Garner.

Structural racism is a sneaky, elusive little bastard. You cant see it, like the old racism of KKK and "no coloreds" signs. Its hidden, its cleaned up and tucked under tight lipped smiles and redlining procedures. Its institutionalized. I have had countless conversations on which was the greater evil; blatant racism or institutional/structural racism. They are very different. The conclusion is always that the latter is more damaging, to more people, in a way that is not as easy to combat. If you smile to my face, but dog me behind my back then it is not as easy to fight you. Thats an incomplete broken down version of that kind of racism. It seeps into government and society, and there is always an excuse for it.

Housing projects are examples of the long term effects of structural racism in the real estate field. As Blacks moved North to escape the Jim Crow laws and practices of the South, they were not free to live anywhere. They were redlined, or "steered" to the South side (present day Bronzeville) and then eventually the West side. The housing projects were originally for the European immigrant workers but they were able to assimilate into the White classes and the North bound (freedom seeking) Blacks were arriving en masse. The real estate practices like denying loans for minority buyers and encouraging buyers to buy in racially homogenous neighborhoods have resulted in stark racial segregation today. The Black neighborhoods became impoverished due to racism, and a resulting lack of employment and oppportunities available. These public housing developments have served to create a feeling of isolation both economically and racially. But is it a good thing they are coming down?

I am torn. Having been in and all around Cabrini I can say confidentally that they are an example of hell of earth. No need to go into any more detail, I am sure we all watch the news and see the obcession with violence and drama. Its a true haven and breeding ground for drugs, sex, abuse, crime, violence, just Brokenness and sin.

But admist this hell on earth, these people have built a community. I have no place to be judging anyone who be living there, I dont know them...I dont live their life so I cant know enough to make their choices. But the community ties are obvious. Being lower income, there is a great deal of sharing and interdependence going on with the residents. If they dont have it, someone else does or knows how to get it for cheap. Its a sense of home among the violence and nightmarishness.

There are stories passed around though, like a game of telephone, that ignorant people cling to. I believe its an attempt to justify, to reconcile, to make themselves feel better about why we allow people to live in that situation, about the obvious racial issue at the heart of these dilapidated projects. They go like this: That the Black people ruined the projects, that when built they were glittering towers of free housing, the residents were so ignorant they removed their screen doors and put them over their bathtubs to create a supersize grill, no one there works, they take advantage, white people are killed for going in there.....
Really? Yeah and according to the movie from the 90's, the Candyman lives there too and he is made of bumblebees and comes out from behind the bathroom mirror to kill you.

All of this leads to a question of was it right to tear down these "projects" and displace the people?

Well, the motives are what matters.

The area around Cabrini is hot property now!!!!!! In the shadow of downtown... The city all of a sudden wants that useless land thay they exiled the black people to early in the century. They can take it and sell it to white yuppies who want to be just ouside the downtown area and have condos with elevators. But what is most upsetting to me is that Mayor Daley is trying to reactivate the white flight phenomenon. White flight isnt really a phenomenon, actually. Its when whites move to escape minority's. Daley has said several times he wants to bring the people with money back to the city. And what does that mean? What does that look like? How do you do that? Well, you get rid of the people that scared them out in the first place. But its not enough to just tear down those projects and create million dollar condo's for them, we need to push the former residents out into the suburbs (further stimulus for relocation of heavily white residents in suburbia). Ta-daa! White flight back to city. Its a perfect storm. A sick one, being ground in greed, profit and fear but a mastermind plan to get what they want.

Also other businesses that jumped at the chance to snatch up a pretty parcel of land (hey.. what up Park Church?) completly ignorant to what they are doing to the area.

Same thing on the West side! Ooh all that pretty land around the Garfield Park Conservatory, lets sell that now! We wondered why the park was being redone and the only stop on the Green Line to be aesthetically pleasing ws the Conservatory not to mention the neighborhood library being built...

Sometimes i wonder, just who the Urban Ministry's will be serving in a few years? I am sure their biggest dreams are to be able to go out of business because everyone is loving Christ, self sufficient and communities are working together but thats not realistic. I believe that these new residents need to see and experience the realness of Christ as much as the ones they will be replacing, but most Urban ministries I have seen are not structured to cater to that middle and upper middle class population.

I got off track somewhere up there. But look for a small series of future posts detailing the feminization of poverty and then the overrepresentation of Black males in prisons and the reasons I found after seeking an answer in the DePaul and Chicago Library's and Sociology Dept at DePaul.

Gotta learn before you can make a difference.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Olympics

I like sports. I do. I played sports; gymnastics, baseball, cheerleading (its a sport), swimming, one year of basketball (i sucked it up), I even was on track for half a year in high school.

I usually like the Olympics, summer ones especially for the swimming and gymnastics.

I will NOT watch this year.

The games are in China, who has been proven to be supporting and supplying the Government in Darfur with money and tons of guns and ammunitions. The Sudan supplies China with all of its oil. Neither side is shy about this partnership, its common knowledge. The genocide in Darfur, perpetrated by the government against its people, is also common knowledge.

Besides the act of supplying the Janjaweed with tools with which to slaughter millions of people, there are countless human rights violations in Beijing and other areas of China.

I like sports and recreational activities, I support them, I enjoy them, I relish in them. Wheeeee.

But not more than I like life, and morality and what's obviously right. ANd supporting the Olympics this summer is not right. Can we look the other way and celebrate health and sports and fun while their is a genocide going on?

This would be like having Germany hold the Olympics during the Holocaust. That would have been ridiculous. This isnt different. Why do we need to have years elaspsed since an event such as a mass genocide to understand its consequences or ramification? Why does it take so long to get a conscience?

This is wrong. China is making the genocide possible. Now we just want to hang out and watch them host the Olympics which is a display of countries coming together anr exhibiting sportsmanship and good conduct and sport prowess. Its a symbol of freedom and globalization and unity. It an attempt for the world to all get along and drink Coca Cola.

I am boycotting the Olympics.

Go to and see whats up there.

Seriously, dont wait years to look back and think you should have done something. Answer back now.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
--MLK from Birmingham jail

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Merry Maids?

I love summer because I get to read what I want. I get into this groove and read like 3 books a week. Sometimes I think I learn more useful knowledge in the summer that in a quarter at college! I dont read romancy girly crap novels. I read books that make my sister and friends cringe. They are case studies of urban issues, sociological meanderings on race and class, social structural dissertations and other non fiction but riveting material (with a Paulo Coeltho fiction thrown in perhaps). Can i sound more boring and weird? Not if I tried. But I love it. My eyes are bigger than my watch and brain capacity as I go to the library and get out 10 books at a time, knowing full well not only will these books never ever be back on time but they will not all be fully read. I stalk the used section at and spend a few hours a summer laying in the social science section of the bookstores. I like books. I like reading. I like learning.

Right now, I am reading Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Enhrenreich. Its ok. I am familiar with low wage labor and the problems that can cause so this was not extremely eye opening experience but I enjoyed the premise and her gumption to give up her life and assume the role of a low wage worker across America to see how it is done.
I babysit (nanny) for some rather wealthy families in the all too notorious North Shore area. I have spent the last few days at work daydreaming of these women caring and being so interested in the low wage labor that frequents their communities and houses that they undertake an experiment like this. Its all fun to me to think of this as I smile at the cleaning ladies as I usher the kids outside and clear of the monster vaccuums. Or as I offer a cold drink of water to the army of landscaping guys, I think of the situations being switched and these tired, sweaty men languishing about in enormous mansions where they "work from home" in air conditioned home offices for an hour a day then jet off to the country club for some "much needed" relaxation.

Excuse my bitterness. My job is pretty easy, and for the most part I love the kids.

The one thing I will be taking away from this book and amazing experiment Barbara undertook is when she says that she never had a cleaning lady. As she herself assumes the role of a merry maid, she comiserates on why she never in all her comfortablility and upper middle class existence, never hired a maid or maidS. SHe says that is not the kind of relationship she ever wanted to have with another human. That sentence was just revolutionary for me. TO employ someone else, to monitor someone else whose sole responsibility was to clean up after you was not the relationship Barbara wanted to have with another human. Thats all she said on that. But it was the most powerful sentence in the book to me. My gma has a cleaning lady because she insists on keeping her house even in her tiny, stooped, brittle old age. Kasia only comes once every two weeks and just vaccuums the carpets and cleans the bathroom and kitchen. And had lunch and chats with gran. She doesnt do laundry, or change sheets, or clean the basement or my upstairs. I offered to do this for Gran now that I am here, but my cleaning skills are not known to be transcendiary or prized. And Kasia has been around for 7 years or so, they spend as much time talking and eating and petting the dog as she does cleaning. But I am off the subject....
I hate cleaning and sometimes dreamed about one day getting a cleaning lady to come to my home. But after that sentence by Barbara and reading the book and really thinking... NO, because thats not the relationship I want to have with another human being either.

That statement seemed to have Christian written all over it, but alas, Barbara is a declared atheist. But to not want to have a shallow, purely demeaning relationship with another human that involves them just cleaning up after you and establishes a hierarchy of power the way that most cleaning situations do, thats good stuff. Thats really looking at things and setting up a heaven on earth. Most cleaning ladies get paid meager wages. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking what is the big deal? But my experiences in these BEYOND wealthy homes as hired help and then witnessing first hand the cleaning ladies and their experiences, compounded with reading this book with an insider view of low wage labor in America and getting further input of the demeaning nature...I am going to say that NO, thats not the relationship I ever want to have with another human. I just feel that is right. I want to buy multiple copies of this book and leave in the homes in which I work. Think they will read it?
You should.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

I hate today. I always hated today. I dont have a father. I am so used to saying that, that it rolls off my tongue with no emotion. Sometimes people say the obvious: YOu have to have a father or you wouldnt have been born. Usually that was when I was kid and we had just been through 5th grade health class where we learned it took a mommy and a daddy. But I dont have a father. I had a father, but he was a jerk. He abused my mother and us and we left him when I was young. I still dont feel I have all the details. We had visits for a year or so after we left, but then no more. The last time I saw him I was 4 or 5. I have few memories of him but they are clear and not pleasant. I rarely talk about him to anyone, but his legacy is always with me. The empty part of my heart is never filled or fixed. The resulting negative impact on my mother he made, which she in turn passed on to us made it a double whammy of sorts. I see my loss and pain because of it. I see my sisters pain and loss because of it. I remember finding a book once in my mothers bedroom, it was called "How to Dad; a book for single mothers." I remember looking at it and thinking, that sucks she has to learn to be both. I hate Fathers day, I hate daddy daughter dances, and I am instantly jealous anytime I see a little girl walking with a man that may be her dad. I was driving home from work the other day and I counted 7 possible dads walking hand in hand with their small daughters, one on shoulders. I was jealous of them. I am not totally sure why the visits or talks with my dad stopped. I have heard a few stories: he was a jerk, he was not consistent, we (sissy and I) didnt want to see him anymore after him and his new girlfriend broke up, it was our decision... etc. And i worry that it was my decision. But who lets a four or five year old child and her six year old sister make that decision? I want that last day back. One of my memories was of the last time I saw him. We were in the parking lot of his apartment building, me in the front seat and Kim in the back. As we pulled into the parking lot, he told us that him and his girlfriend (Karen?) had broken up and she wasnt there. Then he asked us if we wanted to stay and we shook out heads no. Then he angrily began turning the car around and driving us home to my grandparents. I remember wanting the radio on so bad but knowing if I opened my mouth to talk I would cry. So instead I just sat there pointing at the knob on the radio. Thats it. Thats the last time. Its one of 3 memories I have of him. I have no pictures. I have no nothing. I have no stories. My sister and I have talked a fewe times about trying to contact him, but we dont know how and no one is willing to help us. I worry that if I try to find him, he may be dead and then I will freak out. I feel like I need to see him, I need to know he exists. I want to see my father. My mom used to say he would just mess up our lives and that he would wrek havok on all of us. He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman holding white gloves or something. She used to ask me what I would even say to him and I said I just want to look at him for a few minutes. I said another time I wanted to ask why? Why didnt he ever try to find me? Her answer sometimes was that he had problems and his parents were bad to him. She said that he probaly has a whole other family. I want to know if he blocked us out. I want a chance to forgive him, even if he cant say sorry. I think that could fix that piece of me that tears me apart as hard as I try to push it down and away into the deepest part of my stomach. I am 28, I thought I would be over it by now. I thought i would lose that part of me that wants her dad. But its here. And I still HATE HATE HATE fathers day.

I was cleaning out a drawer in my grandma's attic awhile ago and I found this poem. It was on a crumbled piece of dirty lined paper in my unmistakable printing. I dont remember writing this, but its my feelings. I read it and it felt like home. I wrote it in 1999.

Oliver James

I had a dream last night
whilst all the rest slept
I've woken with a terrible fright

I dreamt of a ghost
Last night in this dream
not a hallowed terrific figure
but a ghost from the past.
I dreamt of my father
or rather, what he would be
what he should be
what he could be

He came to me in this dream
we did not embrace
even my dreaming, lying mind could not
concoct such an oddity
We merely just were.
As a father and offspring should be,
or as they 2 could be.

I didnt ask why never...
how could I finish that question,
2 fatherless children
1 husbandless wife
we made our own
the way it was

So in my facade
we just were
questions left dangling in the sparse air between us,
and I looked.

I looked at the man who I was,
whose own blood and life I possessed.
Whose disposition I rebuked.
Whose paranoia I fought every living day.
Who had caused me no little ammount of loneliness
Who I blamed for more than he could assume
the man who never knew me
but in this dream there was no bitterness,loneliness or sorrow
just a fullnes of heart
a rest of mind
my eyes could stop looking so hard
Finally, i was complete.

But then,
I awoke to the light of day
to find, NO
and then back-
back to wandering, wondering, waiting.
and back to the sadness in my heart.

Back to the bottom of the hill
so I could begin the battling ascent
back to searching the face of every man
for the one man I wanted the most
the one man who knew me the least
yet alluded me nevermore.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Break broke broken

I saw this sentence awhile ago on Kevin Gwins blog, I think: Broken things break things.
It messed me up to think about the serious and utter obvious truth up in that.

broken things break things.
Breaking things is a result of brokennes
brokeness is from breaking
broke attracts broke resulting in more breaking and brokeness

What fixes it all? Love. Specifically, Jesus' love.

But when you are so broken, its hard to access that.
Being broken is apart from God, and the answer is to seek God.
But being broken is the opposite of that, and when you are broken you dont see it or you cant get it --- Thats why you are broken.

you are broken, so you break more.

Monday, June 2, 2008


So I got accepted to a program at DePaul University. Its called the Trio program. It is for first generation college students from low income families. I had to be interviewed to see if I have an "at risk" profile. I do. That doesnt make me feel any better. When one of the ladies met with me to tell me I was accepted, she added that I am the only white student in the program. Apparently they will help me finish school. Its funny and I have never really admitted this before I was talking to the lady in the program, but I dont see myself finishing college. Dont get me wrong, I want to so bad but it seems like an unrealistic goal or expectation for me. I dream, big dreams alot, but thats what they seem to be: dreams. I told the lady that and she just looked at me, she said that was sad. I think it hurt to realize that. I am a junior now, so that means 2 more years. Thats a long time to be in this same place physically, financially, speaking.