White Gentrification In Chicago: Why Not Woodlawn?

In my previous post a sharp eyed reader asked me why I didn’t recommend my own neighborhood of Woodlawn to a young woman inquiring about moving to Chicago.

The reader raised a very good point.

I wrote back to her with the following reply:


Now that’s a head scratcher.

And an excellent question.

Because you asked—so I’m keeping it 100–Woodlawn in it’s present incarnation is not for the faint of spirit.  I didn’t suggest my own neighborhood because I know nothing about the young woman who posed the initial question.   As I stated in my  response, I didn’t know her experience with a variety of factors—including race and urban areas—and suggested neighborhoods based on the information she revealed where she might feel comfortable interacting as a newcomer to Chicago.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about crime.

So far I’ve been a lucky person.  Yet while lucky, I like to think I have a presence that has prevented me from being a victim of a street crime.  Then of course, I try to mitigate my risk by using common sense—being aware of my surroundings, not coming in too late—things of that nature.  I also realize that living in east Woodlawn across the street from a private high school (whose campus takes up a city block) has reduced crime in my immediate area.  Nonetheless, knowing as little as I did about the young woman who asked me the question, I would be remiss in suggesting she live in a neighborhood that she may not be ready for.

While I believe Woodlawn to be a beautiful and amazing place, I’d be foolish in not recognizing or acknowledging that we have problems—big problems—that extend back decades.  While I believe those problems can be addressed, that process is slow going.  Too slow for a possible first time Chicago resident to adjust to.

In short, if a wide eyed ingenue bent on changing the world moves into a neighborhood that she is not prepared for, I’ll pretty much guarantee that she will have a negative experience.  And when I say negative experience, I mean being intimidated by groups of black men (with good intentions or not) standing in her path. Woodlawn’s lack of amenities (grocery shopping, entertainment) and the false perception of apathetic neighbors.

If I may be frank, another disillusioned white person leaves one less ally in the fight to revitalize Woodlawn.  We need all of the allies and help we can get.

My beautiful Woodlawn is a neighborhood for advanced Chicagoans, not beginners.  Mormon missionaries not withstanding.


Woodlawn Wonder


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