Is Chicago Seeing REDlining in Retail

Is Chicago Seeing REDlining in Retail

Last week LJ at The Sixth Ward Blog posted this article. The article from the Atlantic Magazine titled “Retail Redlining: One of the Most Pervasive Forms of Racism Left in America.”  The article centers around the response the Village Administrator from Olympia Fields received at a recent conference. In the article the Village Manager recounts a conversation he had with a restaurant official.

David Mekarski, the village administrator for the south Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields, told a startling story this week at the American Planning Association’s annual conference about a debate he recently had with a restaurant official. Why, he wanted to know, wouldn’t quality restaurants come to his mixed-race community, where the average annual household income is $77,000, above the county average?6178962-african-american-woman-eating-in-restaurant

The reply: “Black folks don’t tip, and so managers can’t maintain a quality staff.And if they can’t maintain a quality staff, they can’t maintain a quality restaurant.”

The author further goes on to define “Retail Redling”.

There’s a term for the phenomenon he’s describing: retail redlining. The practice is a more recent and less studied variation on redlining as it’s been historically recognized in the housing sector. In the context of retail, grocery stores, and restaurants, redlining refers to the “spatially discriminatory practice” of not serving certain communities because of their ethnic or racial composition, rather than their economic prospects.

It’s a newer phenomenon in part because there are more upper-income minority communities in America today. Households that can afford the same stores and restaurants as comparable white communities now want to know where the retailers are. The practice is tricky to study, though, because these types of communities are still relatively few in number (with hard-to-find comparison communities), and because it’s difficult to distinguish a retailer’s “unconscious racism” from its legitimate business reasons for locating a store or a restaurant.

After reading this article it became more apparent why communities such as Bronzeville, Chatham, and even Beverly are having difficulty getting quality retailers versus the “corna store”, Dunkin Donut and Subway operators who saturate the landscape today.

Several years ago, Alderman Howard Brookins was asked why Walmart and not Whole Foods was courted to come to  Chatham Market, a new development in his ward. The Alderman replied he was told by Whole Food representatives that the ward did not have enough residents with advance degrees and that was one of their benchmarks they looked at to locate stores. Whole Food representatives deny that a conversation ever took place and that advance degrees were not one of their criteria to consider a location.

Also, in Chicago Retail Redlining goes even further, whereas there are double standards for chain stores located in communities of color. Recently, I attempted to tender internet coupons at a major grocery store chain location in my neighborhood and was told by a shift manager they do not take internet coupons in “black stores”. I left the items at the store and went to another store and they took the coupons without a problem. Also, chains and regional level managers create rules for stores located in communities of color such as poorly trained staffs, understaffed stores and inferior merchandise. When asked about this the response from employees and managers is that “people in this community do not have money to buy the higher price merchandise”.

So now I understand why in a city like Chicago that can host the world’s largest Restaurant show(National Restaurant Association show) can not persuade any of these restaurants to locate within a five mile range of McCormick Place.

So does REDlining take place in your neighborhood? Drop a line and let us know.

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