Thursday, May 2, 2019

Racial relations not quite as positive these days as we’d like to think

The south Cook County suburbs of Homewood and Flossmoor are a pair of municipalities that like to think they’re doing something right when it comes to race relations – that somehow they’ve reached a level of peace and cooperation other places ought to try to mimic.
'National' news occurring at Kedzie and Flossmoor Rd.

But then we look at the antics this week at the high school district that covers the two suburbs – and perhaps it shows we still have a ways to go before we reach the desired levels of racial harmony.

IT WOUND UP becoming news this week about the antics of some white students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School who thought of it as fun and games to be seen out in public wearing their high school colors (the Vikings wear red and white) and faces painted in black.

Like many other young people, they felt the need to document their behavior (including a trip to the local McDonald’s) on social media outlets. Which means things became public.

Black students at the high school took offense. The issue has become a big stink. And for what it is worth, school officials called a meeting on Sunday with the parents of the students they could identify.

School officials won’t say exactly what they told those parents, or what they intend to do with the students – citing state laws that provide young people with some protections of confidentiality.

THAT IS WHAT has the black segment of the Homewood-Flossmoor student body outraged. They WANT public disclosure. They want these little white twerps to be shamed, and perhaps have some sense of stigma attached to them for their nonsense antics.

They think the high school administration is covering up for the white students, with some going so far as to tell the Daily Southtown newspaper that if a black student were to have been caught doing something equally stupid, he (or she) would have faced immediate expulsion.

That is what led to the student walkout that took place Tuesday, with many of the black-majority of the student body marching around the neighborhood surrounding the campus to express their outrage.

For what it’s worth, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that police from the two suburbs were joined by officers from Matteson, Park Forest and the Illinois State Police to patrol the area – although there wound up being no arrests, or any examples of behavior that could be construed as improper.

EXCEPT, PERHAPS, TO those people who think that the concept of free expression of ideas is somehow subversive to the American Way of life! Particularly when it’s being done by people who don’t look like themselves in the mirror.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these racial tensions linger, and if they’re capable of dying down. Although it could be argued that they were inevitable.

Personally, I didn’t attend Homewood-Flossmoor High School, although I have two nephews who did. I DID attend a high school in a nearby community, and H-F High was considered one of our athletic arch-rivals.

But back in the days some nearly four decades ago when I was in high school, Homewood and Flossmoor were overwhelmingly lily-white communities. The extent to which there was diversity was the existence of some Jewish people living in Flossmoor.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED. The most recent Census Bureau population count (of 2010) showed Homewood barely with a white majority (54.7 percent, which dropped to 50.7 percent if you subtracted those who identified ethnically as Latino or Hispanic), while Flossmoor already had developed a 56.7 percent African-American majority population. Some might want to say the communities have accepted black people.

But for what it’s worth, the news accounts (which are spreading nationally, the student walkout is turning up in news reports from around the United States) indicate the H-F High enrollment is some 69 percent African-American. That could be evidence that many kids of white people living in the communities are following the lead of Chicago city residents and sending their kids to private schools instead.

By the time the Census Bureau does the next national count (on April 1, 2020), I suspect both communities will officially be African-American majority, with a still-sizable white population that remembers the “good ol’ days.”

While the developing black people majority will feel no sense of love lost for what used to exist locally. With incidents such as the inanity of white kids thinking “black face” is funny likely to become the norm and everybody convinced that it’s “someone else’s fault” that things became the way they are now.


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