Chicago Segregated: What a Way to Start Black History Month

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.



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  • did you see carmel cutie chimed in on koolking 83's blog entry?

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    I don't think any white Chicagoan would be surprised by our ranking, either. I'm certainly not. It would be nice if those types of new items focussed a bit on some of our more integrated neighborhoods. I live in Uptown and despite it's problems, it's a great place. On any normal walk with my dog I pass almost every race, ethnicity, religion, etc. and I love it. Really, the corridor along the lake from Irving Park up to Howard is as diverse as it gets anywhere. Also, great story about Mr. Johnson!

  • Since you have several posts on starting off Black History Month on the wrong note, I wonder if future ones will start off with "On Feb. 1, 2012, Don Cornelius emulated George Eastman." That really hits me as starting off Black History Month on the wrong side of the bed.

  • Hey Christophe, you are absolutely right. I wish more of Chicago reflected your neighborhood and for that matter Hyde Park. The Bronzeville community is becoming more racially mixed. Not a bad idea but also has its drawbacks. What we are struggling for in Bronzeville is to maintain economic diversity as well as racial and cultural diversity.

  • Jack, have you thought about pitching your idea for a blog at Chicago Now? We'd love to see your stories regarding how you feel.

  • In reply to Danie:

    About half the bloggers post this, while another half call me a troll and tell me to get lost. One called me a troll and said why I don't get a blog, to which I said tell Jimmy to pay me.

    BTW, Jimmy once e-mailed me, but I said I was reactive. You'll also note that I didn't comment on the main point about whether Chicago is segregated, which we know it is. However, my viewpoint is that much of one racial group has exited the city (especially the near West and South sides) in the past 10 years, and I don't mean the whites.

  • There is currently more CHA being developed for state street.Why is it that the majority of this "affordable housing" is only slated for areas that already have an disporpotionate amount of this housing(middle class black areas)? They are using our communities as dumpining areas to preserve downtown and trendy areas of the north side. Its already hard enough to get development on the south side and the city and alderpeople are contributing to this.

    Dowell just wants to dilute the middlle class(like Brookings) so she can ensure her continual re-election as she knows the south loop won't support her. She knows the middle class would challenge her and hold her accountable and she can't have that. I hope the black middle class is paying attention to how the black politicans are actually working against them. This is true for Brookings also, what happened in the remap was just dispicable.

    Everyone contact your federal senator/reps and the republicans and tell them u support cutting of the HUD budget. Cut the budget so that there is only enough for seniors, the disabled, and returning vets. Also tell everyone you know and in community meetings. You don't have to vote for the republicans, just let them know that they have your support for these cuts. The budget cuts will Force CHA to sell their public housing to the private market and there will be less section 8 in your area raising property values.

    Black people should be the most vocal of everyone as our areas are used as areas to dump them(section 8 public housing). THEN PEOPLE ALWAYS WONDER WHY THE BLACK AREAS OF TOWN ARE ALWAYS THE SLUMS. The black politicans don't care about the black community they only care about their power. They continue to undermine progress and blame racism for the non progress , while they are the actual problem ie Dowell, Sawyer,and Brookings.

    Lets vote based on candiates who will represent our interest whether they be gay, lesbian, republican, green party, white, asian etc.

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