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.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I worked in Cabrini for 5 years doing full time ministry and I can tell you that Cabrini is filled with wonderful folks who love Jesus and want to bring wholeness to their neighborhood.

Its just the few who make it worst for a lot of folks. Even the gang bangers respect the "church" and all who work for it. I have countless stories of conversations with gang bangers where they are crying out for help.

So you are right in that "community" is a strong point in Cabrini and has been for quite some time. I like the way you think girl!