Race Out Loud: Live from BJ's

June 25, 2012

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All this week in the series Race Out Loud, WBEZ and Vocalo will be talking about race in frank conversations, stories and in public.

Monday morning, Eight Forty-Eight broadcasts live from BJ's Market and Bakery in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood for a discussion on the role that segregation plays in Chicago's street crime. Joining series editors Cate Cahan and Natalie Moore are Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block, youth advocate Mariame Kaba and Carlos Nelson, executive director of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

On the goals of the Race Out Loud series:

Natalie Moore: We want uncomfortable truths to come out of this...We don’t want to look at this as just black and white, which is really how our region has been defined.

Cate Cahan: The way for us to learn more is to listen to one another; to understand what another person of another race believes or thinks or brings to this conversation. The numbers behind segregation are changing and we are out to hear the stories behind those numbers.

On this Manhattan Institute study entitled "THE END OF THE SEGREGATED CENTURY: Racial Separation in America's Neighborhoods, 1890-2010":

Mary Patillo: The Manhattan Institute's report caused a big broohahah in scholarly community because of the title. To call it the end of the segregated century is really premature. In many of our larger cities...racial segregation is still in what we would call the “severe” range.

The city of Chicago is segregated, but the South Side is not. It’s important to make that distinction. When we don’t do that, we assume white people don’t have a race.

On the importance of BJ's in the community:

John Meyer, owner of BJ's: Father Pfleger encouraged me to open my restaurant here. He said, "We need a restaurant."

Sure, I had economic concecrns.  But they helped me with that. It has been challenging at times...[but] I hire from the community. I’m giving back.

 

How media coverage plays into segregation:
Natalie Moore: Being the South Side bureau reporter, my office is in Englewood...my job is not to be positive or to be negative but to show the breadth in stories out of the South Side.

I’m constantly battling this idea of what the South Side is. It’s a code word for black, poor, crime. if you just watch the 10 o’clock news, your impression is going to be that that’s all that happens: killing.

That’s what stifles us from living apart, is that we don’t experience parts of the city. and with the media, then you’re really going to have a distorted image of what the city is.

Mary Patillo: It’s important to reiterate what Natalie said about the diversity of the South Side...It's important to talk about the connection between crime and violence, schools that are not well supported, lack of jobs, budget cuts for Chicago Parks program, things as small as taking down the nets in a local park that used to be the place that everyone would go and hang out.

We should not be surprised that there’s a lot of pain and suffering and frustration that leads to this violence.
When we try to report on shootings it should be to try to build some empathy.


Natalie Moore: I don’t think there is this empathy. I feel like there’s a tally count.

I don’t think this is seen as a social justice issue.

Mariame Kaba: For the young people I work with...your community is simply where you live. It’s what you know...it’s just home. So they’re not seeing their communities in the same light that they’re being portrayed on TVor in the media.

Audience member: If you give us a chance to not be segregated, then African American people will learn and adapt to not have violence in their neighborhood.

Morgan, audience member: We don’t branch out to show anyone anything different. We only know one side of each story. We’re so violent because we feel like we’re treated like animals [with metal detectors in our schools].

On different types of segregation:

Mariame Kaba: [Talking about taking some young people from the West Side to Starbucks to first time] They felt as though they didn't want to be in that store. They decided to eliminate themselves from that store and leave. It seems so basic, but they couldn't figure out the language [Venti, Grande Tall]. We laugh about that, but that’s a really impoertant issue around cultural confidence. Many of these young people had never been in a Starbucks and that felt intimidating to them.

They have to learn how to code shift. Our young people have to have multiple languages. We’re not providing them enough opportunities to learn how to do this.

On the reality of segregated neighborhoods:

J.P. Paulus, audience member: I'm half-white, half-East Asian. I feel just as welcome [in Auburn Gresham] as anywhere else. I want to encourage people to come here. [My neighborhood of] Chatam is very welcoming.

Mary Patillo: It’s really whites who prefer neighborhoods that are majority white. Blacks prefer neighborhoods that are mixed race.

Will tourism fix segregation?:

Natalie Moore: I think it’s too soon to assess Rahm Emanuel but I do think he’s more visible on the South Side than Mayor Daley was. He is taking up food deserts as an issue.

Carlos Nelson: The key is education. Tourism is also important; even though 79th street is the busiest bus line in the city, it’s very clean here.

Mariame Kaba: Resources, resources resources!