“Racism” is a word that’s too often tossed around these days, used primarily as a cudgel against anyone who doesn’t bow in subservience to far left dictates. Lord knows, it’s been applied to me often enough.
So it was with some thought before I applied the label to a column by Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton, “The one unspoken issue at the heart of Obama center opposition — race.”
Turning a legitimate debate over the advisability and legality of a government that is entrusted to protect public land from take-over by private interests, Glanton has turned a disagreement over policy into an assault by elite white people on African Americans.
On this issue [over building the center in Jackson Park] black people have to stand together or risk losing everything. It would also be nice if white people stopped acting like they know what’s best for black people and start treating African-Americans like they’re an important part of this city, too.
And so she goes after a “white North Side lawyer” who is telling blacks what’s good for them; “… people who don’t even live in Chicago who are part of a lawsuit that, in essence, is holding a knife to the project’s throat;” “…some of our liberal white friends next door in Hyde Park,” and so on.
It isn’t that they don’t want to see African-Americans thrive. It’s just that they’ve convinced themselves that they know what’s best for black people, much better than black people know themselves. And in this case, black people would be better off if the Obama Center were built farther north [sic] in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Washington Park…
This overt opposition to the Jackson Park site isn’t surprising, though. White people in Chicago, like the rest of America, have a long history of telling black people what is best for black people. They are, in fact, rationalizing what is best for them.
No one should have to explain why it’s racist, but it appears to be required. Glanton is trying to read minds, “white minds” at that, imputing motives that are malevolent and untrue.
Glanton, a native of Georgia, pitches aside respect for local culture and laws proclaiming that the precious and beautiful lakefront must be left “open, free and clear.” She ridicules people who hold the law sacred and purposeful. She suggests that suburbanites should get lost even though a federal judge says that they have standing to sue. She insists that the disagreement over the center’s location is essentially a class war between the haves (whites) and have-nots (blacks).
With out the sly racism in the column, we could have a good policy discussion. We could weigh the merits of locating the center where it would do the most good–in the neighborhood itself, where vacant land and decaying infrastructure are crying for development. Where the center would have a more proximate impact on restaurants and all the other enterprises that would be mothered by the center. Where accessibly by public transit would be easier. Where the neighborhood and the center wouldn’t be separated a wall–the Metra electric line.
But, she asserts, the center shouldn’t go in the neighborhood because people will be afraid to go there. You know how white people are, based, I supposed, on the premiss that they’re terrified of black neighborhoods.
The soaring and ugly center is completely out of human scale, totally out of place in the park, rising like a monstrous menhir.
I guess I have to say it again. The objections to center would completely disappear if Obama and his supporters would recognize the superior location outside of Jackson Park.
So far, most of the disagreement over the center’s location has been reasonable and calm. But the uncivil tone that now is showing up in the form of a race card suggests just how desperate the center’s backers are getting to plant their flag in Jackson Park.