The South Side, by Natalie Moore is a refreshing and penetrating look at the south side of Chicago. I have lived near Chicago for 80% of my life. I once visited my older brother, John, when he was a full-time substitute teacher in a school that painted the windows because of sniper fire. I have gotten lost in a neighborhood where no one spoke my language and in a neighborhood where residents told me to get back on the Interstate because it was not safe there. My youth group volunteered at Jane Addams Hull House. My younger brother worked for Catholic Charities building low-income housing for seniors in twenty high-poverty neighborhoods. I have driven into the Loop when I was living below poverty level and wondered why there is so much money and homeless people in the same area. Someone’s not tithing their 10%.
Natalie Moore has opened my eyes. Although I knew about red-lining, the act of refusing to sell homes to blacks, I thought the Supreme Court case in 1940 (Hansberry v. Lee) and the Fair Housing Law passed in 1968 had done away with it. In fact, in the 1980s, several suburbs conducted a study by sending black and white couples to potential home sales. The real estate agents steered them to neighborhoods according to ethnicity. During the Great Migration from the South to the North, whites fled neighborhoods when blacks moved in. What does this mean in terms of poverty and wealth? Black neighborhoods tend to have deflated prices and accrue less equity over time. That’s only the beginning of the handicapping conditions if you are black in Chicago.
The public housing was the answer to the poverty on the south side. Using federal money, the first Mayor Daley built the homes between the Lake and the Interstate. The housing was not all bad. There were communities of women who shared resources and helped watch each other’s kids. The gangs became problematic, however, and the second Daly tore them down. When residents were given vouchers to move into other areas, only 1,460 families out of 16,000 were able to find neighborhoods that would accept them. If any of you have priced housing in the city lately, it is getting unaffordable for the middle class now. In a court case in 1969 (Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority), the judge ruled that CHA had deliberately engaged in discriminatory housing practices.1
As a retired teacher, I am interested in all things education. Moore’s chapter on the school system made me boil. Resegregation has been taking place in all major cities and I intend to write an entire blogpost about that. One of the most sure-fire ways to improve the education of all children is to integrate the schools.3 A series of court cases supported parents’ rights to educate their children in better schools, federal officials would not insist on a plan for Chicago based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title VI. Daley and Dirksen threatened to withdraw support from all federal education. A bussing plan in 1966 also went nowhere because of whites picketing. In 1971, Illinois State Superintendent of Public Instruction mandated integration and it was ignored. In 1973, Walker prohibited busing as a way to integrate schools. In 1979, the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights cited a long history of contributing to segregation.4 A 1980 lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice went nowhere.
In 2009, Chicago was released from desegregation monitoring. Recent building of charter schools in all areas of the United States are, in this author’s opinion, just an effort to circumvent unions and resegregate school systems.
Moore’s book continues with chapters on food deserts in low-income areas, lack of investment in businesses, the portrayal of violence as the norm, the benefits of Mayor Harold Washington, and the things we love about Chicago, and I don’t want you to neglect them. I highly recommend her book and hope you will read it. I am focusing on poverty this year, so those chapters are less pertinent.
1 p. 82, Moore
2 p. 81, Moore
3 School Integration and Occupational Achievement of Negroes
Robert L. Crain
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 75, No. 4, Part 2: Status and Achievement in the U.S.: 1969 (Jan., 1970), pp. 593-606
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2775904
Page Count: 14
4 Moore, p. 120