Monday, March 28, 2011

Post-black Chicago?

This is an interesting article from the New York Times about the demographic trend of blacks leaving big northern cities for the South. It's something I've seen anecdotally, as many of my black classmates growing up in Chicago now live in places like Texas and Atlanta. I am very sad to think that the black metropolis I grew up in might one day be no more. Black Chicago gave the world Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Wright, Common and Kanye West, even the Nation of Islam, for better or for worse! What would Chicago be without black people? Of course this worry is sort of hyperbolic on my part, because Cook County, Illinois still has more black folks than any other county in the nation.

The article also points out that many blacks, both those that go to the South as well as those that stay in the northern metro areas, are moving to suburbs. I think this is a shame too. The vacuous, car-dependent, culture-deprived life of the suburbanite is not something to wish on anyone. Again, in my personal experience the suburbs have the same effect on blacks as on whites, of isolating people from many aspects of collective life and consciousness.

But I can't say I blame black folk for leaving the decaying northern ghettos. In my hometown of northside Chicago, we've experienced an economic renaissance of sorts over the past few decades, but no one talks seriously about improving things in the city's segregated black belt, where vacancy, crime, poor schools, and lack of services make life miserable. Another NYT opinion piece points to frequent police harassment in New York City as a possible factor in driving blacks away from the city. This happens in Chicago, too. So I really have no right to my little conceit of keeping Chicago black if black Chicago is consistently ignored and aggrieved.

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