Chicago's Tear Drenched West Side Diaspora

Something is happening that logically shouldn’t be. On one hand our scientists and economists are reporting the cosmos and global trade are both expanding. At the very same time our sociologists and psychologists are reporting we are in fact withdrawing and growing more tribal. To put it into the rhetoric of our new President, we need walls to be great again.

Not that walls are especially new to our times or our city. Israel has been building them with stone ever since their 1967 war with the Arabs; and Chicago has been building them with red-lining ever since the race riots of 1919. But how do we move forward with two such contradictory forces colliding into each other…?

Being a guilty member of our West Side’s white-flight a generation ago, I have become a grudging student of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Fleeing Whites lost their community, and frightened Blacks swapped one ghetto for another. Meanwhile, City Hall did what it has been doing since 1919 ~ keeping a lid on things one way or another. The Police? All White, they had unofficial free rein.The Press? Mostly White, it’s been easy to work with that M.O. in between sanctimonious editorials.

Last summer, 50 years after my own Diaspora from the streets of Austin, I returned. What I found was a neighborhood Chicago mayors do not visit in between elections….family movie houses now showing porn…. ma & pa stores boarded up….commercial streets busy with old cars and young punks….neatly appointed homes, but with only mothers to stand between their kids and their streets.

Wherever I looked, I was stared down for being there. Pretty much what I had expected coming from one side of the wall to the other. If only….

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