Watching the Pruitt Igoe society of Missouri turn from what was initially described as “Christmas morning” in the 1950s and become the slum and then the “ghetto” in less than a generation due to funding and maintenance reminds the observer of the persistence of racism, and how slow-footed democracy really is. Shortly after the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, this mammoth segregated community fell into ruin. It was the policies that tore families apart: husbands from children and wives, however, that was the most heart-wrenching revelation. It disintegrated family and community life; it “altered how boys turned into men,” tearing the social fabric of African American communities completely. Frequently, the black housing societies were developed away from job opportunities, quality schools, and healthcare. Violence led to crime, crime unaddressed by the police, led to a downward spiral of drug abuse, gang violence, and homicide. In 1972, demolition of three buildings on the 50+ acre Pruitt Igoe site were televised. By 1975, the 30-year experiment lay in shambles, ruble, and abandon.
The picture of partiality from the 1950s, the suburban boom, and the concentration of minorities to isolated pockets, without access to finance or home-equity building changes little through the Civil Rights movement. Another 30 years later, many American cities are still divided. Chicago: 1/3 San Francisco 2/3 Detroit continues to privatize many of its services after legal policy changes. In 2000, swaths of Section 8 housing formerly under the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), were transferred to private real estate management firms. The plan outlined moving away from reproducing services that the city already provided, advocating instead that citizens living in public housing should become just that, citizens. They should be able to access health, education, and other city services as equally as Whites. Thus, the CHA envisioned a new role for itself- away from property ownership and management to a role of facilitator and financier.
Title: Housing Inequality:
A Tale of Three Cities' wealth creation & education
Location: 41.6597782, -87.985758
The 2000 plan outlined $1.5 Billion in budgeting, 74% of which was dedicated to building maintenance. There was, however, a need for $3 B in total. Lawmakers mandated the CHA to draft 5-year plans. CHA FY2000 plan provided a baseline for reading what changes did transpire, how effective they were, and after a couple more 5-year plans, what we can expect by 2020 for the 5 categories of public housing consisting of < 25K units. Providing work for landlords, inspectors, small businesses, within the redevelopment plans was mentioned as “service connectors”, but genuine human capital development has another focus altogether...
Trade skills. Job staircases. College Education. Entrepreneur funding. High needs STEM / technical training…. these are the means to develop human capital… the tools to take care of problems of the future.
It starts with changing the culture right from elementary education. Neighborhood schools are carefully scrutinized by homeowners as they invest into a primary property. Charter school networks across the country continue to expand, non-functioning schools in and around troubled neighborhoods in Chicago, meanwhile, continue to suffer high staff turnover and closure. It is difficult to seek funding when most government money is tied to standardized testing. Students in these neighborhoods have the lowest attendance and graduation rates, to make no mention of their test scores. John Dewey, an educationist who worked at the Hull House in the mid twentieth century believed that democracy was synonymous with ethics and justice. He believed an educated, participating civil society was the great equalizer. An observer quickly realizes watching the cycle of under-educated high school graduates seeking jobs, that this system is not working. Students in these neighborhoods may not find the upward mobilizing pathways needed to uplift themselves out of the trenches of poverty.
The UIC Racial Institute’s report “A Tale of Three Cities” provides statistical summaries collected between 2010-2016. It highlights the disparity between Whites, Blacks, and Latinos stating that “racial and ethnic inequalities in Chicago remain pervasive, persistent, and consequential.”
Home equity is the first step to financial freedom and wealth creation. White homes average almost twice as much, at $275K, than do black homes worth $145K or Latino properties at about $180K. The two minority groups are several times more likely to be contributing more than 1/3 of their incomes towards owning a home, have lower paying jobs, high percentages that live under the poverty line, and will pay higher interest rates when a member from their community borrows money. Finally, even with higher degrees of education, these two minority groups will be less likely to be employed than their White counter-parts, or hedge for crises like unemployment for more than 3 months. All of these factors, combined with the swamping $12 billion in White personal wealth verses $1B for Latino and $0.5B for Blacks, indicate that to change Northern Chicago headwinds, and develop wealth-generating upwardly mobilizing south of I-290 communities may be significantly more difficult than the optimist once thought.
While White enrollment in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is less than 10%, they take the lion’s share of funding, have access to the highest performing schools, have AP Calculus and Physics classes or IB credit; White Chicagoans typically attend well-funded schools with playgrounds, working computers and smartboards, and a broad range of extra curriculars. Further, Latino and Black communities will overwhelmingly suffer from neighborhood entrenchment: the great majority of students in schools with < 50% minority enrollment will be on a ‘free lunch’ program. Because less than 25% of the minority populations will graduate from high school, community human capital development will stagnate or decline. To exacerbate these endemic problems of the public education system are incarceration rates. Especially with the black male population, surveillance, suspicion, arrest, and jail-time numbers suggest that they may never be considered equal citizens. Incarcerated individuals will fight an uphill stigmatizing battle for every single step of their journey from graduating high school with a GED, getting access to jobs, or acquiring the means for upward mobilizing self-development.
The State of IL spends $224 on corrections for every $1 spent on public libraries.
Although crime and violence have declined dramatically in the last 30 years, Chicago’s image has not changed much. Both domestically and globally, the media image and portrayal of Chicago must change! Gang violence has decreased dramatically, homicide rates have plummeted, and this violence-bias translates into lost opportunities of economic development in South, predominantly Black, Chicago communities.
This region, suffering from the 1950s should be able to hope for positive-mobilizing factors that can help create change within their neighborhoods to raise wealth-building equity, dignity, and the American Dream… whatever that vision may be in 21st century urban centers. Voting rights, political representation, access to health care also become consequential factors that indicate a lower quality of life for Latino and Black communities in Chicago. Access to pharmacies, health insurance, and treatment mimic the disparities of wealth, economic, and educational opportunities. Thus, A Tale of Three Cities is a narration of Chicago’s persistent inequality.