Getting specific about systemic racism

Most of us have heard of redlining, sort of understand how sharecropping operated, and know that “separate but equal” schools weren’t ruled illegal until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Yet while we understand that those are examples of systemic racism, we still may largely think of racism as an attitude displayed by individuals.... Read more »

Is Hamilton on screen as good as on stage?

I’m one of the few among my acquaintances who haven’t seen Hamilton on stage. I wouldn’t pay the extravagant ticket price, contending that nothing is a must see. Besides, I expected there would be a movie eventually. Now there is a screen version — not an adaptation but a film of the actual 2016 New... Read more »

The West Wing is an ideal binge watch now

Fourteen years after The West Wing ended its seven-season run on NBC-TV, the hit series looks especially inviting now as we endure its antithesis in real life. I recently watched all 156 episodes on Netflix. I’m not sure why I didn’t catch The West Wing the first time around but was glad to be watching... Read more »
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Chicago’s “most common” contribution to architecture deserves a tour

In the dozen or so years I’ve been a Chicago Greeter, my tours have stayed near the lakefront — the Loop, the South Loop, Prairie Avenue, Andersonville, Argyle Street, Graceland Cemetery, Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s familiar territory, since I’ve lived within walking distance of the lake for nearly 30 years and rarely venture west of... Read more »

Surprising parallels to today in novels about the plague

Judging from the number of reading lists returned by googling “pandemic books,” many readers aren’t looking for escapism during COVID. A pandemic read was not my object on my first trip into the Harold Washington Library Center after it reopened a few weeks ago. Browsing in the Popular Library on the first floor, I noticed... Read more »

Every conversation gets into assessing the risk

When I volunteered to give my first Chicago Greeter tour in four months, I didn’t know that I’d be taking out a Washington Post travel writer. After we met, she let me know that she was writing a story about the new normal of travel. In between seeing Chicago’s first residential loft district and the... Read more »
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In a timely change, publications start capitalizing Black

It’s unlikely that many readers noticed, or cared, when news outlets started using % instead of percent after a numeral — a change prescribed by the Associate Press Stylebook last year. Many newspaper readers have probably noticed, and applaud, a change made in the last month, however. AP, along with many news organizations, now recommends... Read more »

Making masks more comfortable

Let’s stipulate that it’s important and respectful to continue wearing masks as long as the coronavirus is out there. I wear a mask because I should, not to align with a political position. Okay, that’s established. Now I can complain about masks. It’s harder to breathe wearing a mask. It’s harder to hear, and harder... Read more »

Self-examination of a white liberal

The message that this white liberal heard the loudest the last few weeks is that “Do no harm” is not enough. It’s not enough to try to treat everyone decently. Antiracism requires more than passivity. African Americans are understandably tired of whites asking them for suggestions of what to do. Yet it can be hard... Read more »
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Chatting with a locked-down parent

Many of us likely make lists before important conversations. As a journalist, I would jot down points before interviewing someone to make sure everything important would be covered. But a list to talk to your mother? My mother has been in coronavirus lockdown in an assisted living residence for 11 weeks. No visitors, no leaving... Read more »