Editorial Contest: Chicago’s hidden divide

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Chicago
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For The Lansing Journal’s first-ever editorial contest, we partnered with the freshmen class at Unity Christian Academy. Every student in the 26-student class wrote an editorial about something they care about, and submitted them to The Lansing Journal. Publisher Melanie Jongsma and Managing Editor Josh Bootsma read the editorials and picked four winners and one honorable mention based on criteria including: making a claim, persuasion and analysis, evidence, local impact, and language and voice. Winners will be published daily starting April 25, 2022.


By Jeremiah Johns

Segregation was abolished in 1964 but the results are still in effect today. Races are divided into communities and schools which is producing a lack of diversity in many places. Chicago is a big example of that. Chicago as a whole still struggles with modern segregation.

Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country. According to research taken from the 2020 Census done by Berkeley.edu, Chicago ranks fourth in the most segregated cities behind Detroit, MI; Hialeah, FL; and Newark, NJ. Chicago is segregated between Latino, Black, Asian, and white communities, with Black communities being the most isolated. According to the 2020 Census, 74 percent of white Chicagoans would have to move for Black and white Chicagoans to be evenly distributed across the city.

Modern segregation today is not the same as it was in the 1900s, but division between races still exists today.

The interactive graphic below illustrates this point:

Credit: Charmaine Runes and Pat Sier, South Side Weekly — Used with permission

Why is Chicago segregated?

One reason for Chicago’s segregation is redlining. The Federal Housing Administration refused to give loans not just to African Americans who wanted to buy homes but also to those who lived near Black people on the basis and belief that those investments would not pay off. This became known as redlining.

Many of the residential parts of Chicago became off limits to the Black people in Chicago. Banks and governments refused to invest in redlined Black neighborhoods and this cycle of disinvestment fueled poverty and crime.

Wyman Winston, a 69-year-old African American architect and business owner has experienced segregation ever since he was born. He shared the roots of how Chicago became segregated and how it is in effect today: “Chicago is the inventor of today’s modern segregation”, he said. “The Illinois Institute of Technology bought buildings where Blacks lived and intentionally let the buildings deteriorate. They use this to accuse Black people of keeping buildings in bad shape. IIT kicked Black people out and tore down the buildings. IIT got funding from the government to make better white communities. This forced African Americans to the west and south parts of Chicago and Blacks still are segregated in the same places today.”

Chicago used things like the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947, the Relocation Act of 1947, and the Urban Community Conservation Act of 1953 to force Black people out of areas.

The effects of segregation today

The segregated communities of Chicago notably demonstrate that the Black and Latino communities tend to have lower quality housing, more violence, and poorer schools. Issues like these also create negative stereotypes. Kids who grow up in poor segregated neighborhoods struggle to go to college due to the poor conditions. Many just give into the gangs even at an early age.

“I think there’s not as many resources as there are in other neighborhoods,” Brastell Travis told The Atlantic’s Alana Semuels in a 2018 article about segregation in Chicago. Travis is from Englewood.

Segregation has made it difficult for poor Black families to gain access to better parts of the city. This segregation has meant that African Americans often live near fewer educational opportunities and fewer jobs than other people in Chicago.

Solutions

In the past, Chicago leaders have put more money into Chicago’s downtown areas more than the poorer African American communities. Chicago’s current mayor Lori Lightfoot has done a good job of working to reduce segregation by expanding the city’s support for affordable housing in the city. She has supported policies that seek to use city funds to build and renovate homes that low income Black and Latino Chicagoans can afford, to help diversify areas in the city.

Chicago needs to create more laws which help eradicate segregation. Chicago should be putting more money into African American schools and communities to attract more people of different races and ethnicities. Chicago should open up more affordable housing for Black families in all parts of the city. With the help of Chicago’s funding, we can help to reform Chicago’s segregated neighborhoods and diversify the city.

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