Monday, January 15th, our country will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this year the actual date of his birthday. It takes me back to the day of his "Dream" speech, when Jim Crow was fighting to keep blacks separate and unequal.
Two Chicago shootings within 16 hours of each other: a man was shot dead in East Garfield Park this past Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, another man was seriously injured: shot in the knee and stomach. The 2nd man isn't dead, but his injuries will surely compromise his quality of life as long as he lives.
I wanted to find a way to connect this week’s blog post with last weekend’s display of hateful bigotry: white supremacists violently protesting the removal of Confederate General Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. Demanding that Confederate symbols remain is another way of saying “We approve of the Confederate stance that blacks should be enslaved; that they are subhuman.” Even if only the most racist of Americans would actually mouth those words today (like the white supremacists in Charlottesville), back in the 1950s and 1960s, whites spoke openly against blacks entering their communities–and thought they had good reason.
I was inspired to write this post by an article in the Guardian by @NatalieYMoore, Chicago’s South Side reporter for WBEZ. ("Don't let Simpson Blind us to Black Victims of Injustice.") Last week the focus was on OJ’s parole from prison for the 2008 sports memorabilia robbery. After serving nine years, he’ll probably be released early, from his thirty-three year sentence, in October. It took me back to another October–twenty-two years ago, 1995, when a jury acquitted OJ of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. The media were all over the story: Most blacks cheering; most whites were outraged.
Two of the nation’s deadliest riots exploded 50 years ago–in July 1967, within two weeks of each other. July 11th 1967, The Newark Riots blew up on an early Sunday morning, after a cab driver was brutally beaten by Newark police. After four days of rioting, looting, and destruction, 26 were dead and hundreds injured. On July 23rd, 1967, Detroit erupted in a riot triggered by a police raid of an unlicensed after-hours bar, where 82 African Americans were celebrating the return of two local GIs from the Vietnam War.
“…district threatened with Negro encroachment” is a direct quote from the portion shown here of a 1940 map of Chicago area neighborhoods, illustrating the color grade given to various areas by the New Deal’s creation, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC).
Standing under naked beams in the attic’s dim light, we discovered a large box labelled in my mother’s neat printing: “Lil and Fred’s Letters and Diaries.” I ripped off the packing tape and folded back four cardboard flaps. A misty spray of dust and the odor of old paper wafted up....
In July 1962, a few months after I graduated from grade school and one year before the first black family moved onto our block, The Saturday Evening Post, a venerable magazine of the time, ran an article entitled, "Confessions of a Blockbuster." I highly recommend it to understand how insidious racist lending policies, exploited by real estate predators, undermined the housing dreams of both black and white families.