Monday, April 29, 2013

Some don’t see beyond Roosevelt Road; they miss Chicago character

I wish I could say I was shocked and appalled to learn that the Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep high school baseball program got a victory by forfeit Saturday night because their competition – Walter Payton College Prep – refused to make the trip to the Roseland neighborhood to play the game.
A world of difference beyond geography

Payton Prep is a relatively new school in the Near North area near downtown Chicago. It is an upscale part of the city; albeit not that far from what once was the Cabrini-Green public housing complex.

IT IS THE mirror image of Roseland – an old neighborhood on the city’s Far South Side (around 111th Street and Indiana Avenue) – in so many ways.

So to read the accounts published in the Chicago Sun-Times that some parents of children on the baseball team refused to let their kids make the trip sounds way too predictable – non-black parents automatically thinking that the overwhelmingly-black neighborhood is dangerous because it isn’t just like their community.

It is a bad stereotype in so many ways -- even though Payton Principal Tim Devine told the Chicago Tribune that "leadership issues" within the baseball program (and not racial attitudes) were to blame for the forfeiture.

In fact, the racial issue is an attitude that is the real problem behind the crime problems – people who are more than willing to ignore certain parts of Chicago and try to pretend as though they don’t exist. As though some city residents aren’t worth as much as others.

THERE ARE THOSE people who make a point of moving to the city upon completing their education and thinking of themselves as particularly urbane – even though they usually live in a version of Chicago that stretches about as far west as Western Avenue and as far south as Roosevelt Road.

And in their ideal take on Chicago, Lake Michigan would be within constant eyesight. Because life gets too uncomfortable for them away from the north lakefront.

Yes, I’ll concede the lakefront has its perks. It offers some of the benefits that make city life worthwhile. There is something special about those neighborhoods.

And I’ll also concede that the Roseland neighborhood isn’t exactly a place where I would want to hang out on a regular basis. Mostly because the neighborhood is old and has been allowed to decay to the point where it is not one of the city’s nicer communities.

BUT EVEN THAT decay is due to the fact that former residents (a lot of those white ethnic types who fled decades ago and never think of visiting the old turf) want to believe that it is no longer worth preserving because the people who remain aren’t exactly like them in every respect.

So for those who want to blame the current residents for letting the neighborhood rot away, keep in mind that there are others who would interfere with any effort to bolster the neighborhood.

They’d rather see the resources put into the places they’re currently residing in.

It’s not a simple matter of placing the “bigot” label on certain individuals for wanting to pretend that places like Roseland do not exist.

THEN AGAIN, IT’S very easy to say that the people who want to argue that bigotry has nothing to do with this situation are really just individuals who don’t want to be called on their trash-talk.

This willingness to separate ourselves even within the Chicago city limits is the problem that threatens all of us. We need to start thinking of ourselves as one city; even if we are so many varied communities of differing people within the overall municipal boundaries.

Saturday’s high school baseball forfeit is a bit of evidence that some people are determined to keep us apart.

To the point where I suspect that if Cabrini-Green were still in existence just a few blocks from Payton Prep, those parents probably would refuse to let their children attend school there!


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