Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A black neighborhood-only Mandela Road almost reeks of apartheid

MANDELA: Soon to have West Side tribute?
I don’t have a problem with some sort of permanent tribute to the late South Africa President Nelson Mandela.

I just happen to think that the proposal currently under review by the General Assembly is lame and borders on a sense of separation that brings to mind the whole concept of apartheid.

THAT, OF COURSE, was the name for the old structure of South Africa by which the overwhelming non-white majority were separated into specific camps away from everyone else.

It was the structure that Mandela fought his life in opposition to, spent more than two decades of his life in prison because of, but ultimately prevailed. Even though some people still want to spew the old rhetoric that Mandela’s opposition to segregation somehow made him a Communist.

The same thing they used to say all the time in this country about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – for what it’s worth.

Since Mandela’s death last year, communities all around the globe have expressed desires to memorialize the man – even Chicago, which doesn’t have a direct connection to his life (although Mandela’s mentality is something that ought to prevail the Earth).

THAT IS WHAT is behind state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, and the bill of his that the Illinois House of Representatives approved last week – the one that renames a part of Cicero Avenue for Mandela.

Mandela Road would stretch from Roosevelt Road north to North Avenue. Which means “Mandela Road” would be purely a creation of the African-American neighborhoods of the West Side.

Will sign someday differentiate Cicero from Mandela?
Just as “King Drive” is something that only exists in African-American neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side.

It’s already a tacky-enough joke that you’ll never find a white person who lives on King Drive. Do we really need to do the same to Mandela’s image?

ADMITTEDLY, THE BILL had a larger goal in mind when Ford came up with the idea back in December.

He wanted to rename the entire length of Illinois Route 50 for Mandela. That route stretches from near Kankakee north to Skokie – and includes the whole length of the Chicago street known as Cicero Avenue.

Also too isolated from rest of Chicago
Which used to have the pedestrian name of 48th Avenue (because it’s 48 blocks west of State Street). But the Cicero label has been around long enough that it’s a part of Chicago’s character.

That fact, and the idea that there are people in Will and Kankakee counties who have no enthusiasm for the idea that one of their major roads would have the “Mandela Road” label, is what caused Ford to scale back his proposal.

WHICH COMES ACROSS as a lame gesture now. A “Mandela Road” that exists only on the West Side somehow isolates the West Side from the rest of Chicago even moreso than it already is now.

If anything, it goes against the idea of bringing people together that Mandela touted throughout his life.

It probably would be interesting to see how the reaction would be if the bill in question had still kept some non-black neighborhood in the stretch of road under consideration.

Illinois Senate still to decide Mandela Road fate
Perhaps making Mandela Road a stretch across the entire length of Chicago, if not Cook County as well.

THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY shame the people in Will and Kankakee counties who wouldn’t get included in this project. But some people have no shame. I’m sure we’d get some rhetoric about how memorializing Mandela is fine – so long as it’s done somewhere else!

Then again, we’d probably have people in Chicago and suburban Cook who’d express the same sentiment. That might be the real shame – Mandela died before his work was complete.


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