First thing this morning, before I had a chance to down the first cup of coffee, I heard that Chicago is the most segregated city in the country. Aw come on, it’s the first day of black history month. Let’s accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
Of course my attitude was and is no sh-t Sherlock. I don’t think any black person in Chicago was the least bit surprised. It’s old news to us. I guess old news is history.
I remember this great story one of my mother’s friends told me. Back in the late ‘30’s some of her family traveled to Chicago from the deep south to visit. She, being the city cousin and consummate hostess,piled her family into her car to visit other friends and family living inChicago. The tour took in most of Bronzeville because that’s where things were hoppin’. As the adults wound down their day of visiting, the Chicago cousins suggested a stop at one of the south side’s greatest hot spots. No tour worth its salt would miss the Club Delisa at 55th Street. Obviously from the way my mom’s friend told this story there was a punch line. I knew a little about the Club Delisa. In fact, I have a picture of my parents looking mighty clean (that means really dressed up) sitting at a table in that very night spot, with cocktails.
My twelve year old self was waiting for the juicy details. The punch line wasn’t as juicy as I had hoped. You see the country cousins marveled at the fact that the entire city of Chicago was composed of Negroes. My mom’s friend laughed uproariously. Mom chuckled a bit herself. I didn’t get it, at least not then. Their notion of the city came from a day or two spent on both the south and if I remember correctly, parts of the west side, both of which were areas in which blacks were able to rent housing. Maybe some were even able to purchase a home, particularly if they had a white friend buy the house for them.
Things haven’t changed much. Of course we are sprinkled over a broader region of the city today and you can certainly find white faces living in predominately black neighborhoods like Bronzeville. There is no official red lining that limits us from moving wherever we wish to and can afford. That brings me to another story.
I once worked for Johnson Publishing. I must have been in my early twenties (I am not disclosing how long ago that was). I had occasion to ask John H. Johnson about how he built Ebony-Jet magazine into a formidable company. He had several good stories to share. One deviated from the roots of Johnson Publishing to another event in his life. He decided to purchase a condominium in the Carlyle building on Lake Shore Drive. He put a bid in on a condo unit. The process of vetting his application went to the condominium association.
So the story went thusly, the person who at that time owned the adjoining unit didn’t want to live next door to a Negro or whatever term he used indicating Mr. Johnson’s race. The solution was simple to John H. Johnson. He bought both units. At this time in history the actions of the
condominium owner refusing to live next door to a minority would be grounds for litigation on the basis of discrimination. It probably could have been back when the original story unfolded.
One of my colleagues at Chicago Now published a story about the obvious racial discrimination against our President. I harken back to the story Mr. Johnson told me so many years ago. If you don’t want a black President, move to another country. It’s too bad we can’t help these haters along with some airfare.