White Flight – Michelle Obama

As the purpose of this project is to change people’s minds I am constantly evaluating what evidence will convince someone to change their mind. As someone who works with cold hard data I am easily convinced by it, but I recognize that not everyone sees the world this way. Here I’ll share two descriptions of white flight from Michelle Obama’s Becoming. The first uses data:

Michelle Obama’s Becoming

That evidence shows dramatic change in the racial diversity of a neighbor. But consider these two class photos as another piece of evidence:

Michelle Obama’s class photos
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Slowing Displacement Starts in Old Town

Dear Ald. Smith,

Please do not stop the project at 1810 N Wells St. as outlined by Block Club https://blockclubchicago.org/2020/12/02/after-city-strips-landmark-status-for-old-town-stable-alderman-tries-new-tactic-to-block-condos/ and Crain’s https://www.chicagobusiness.com/commercial-real-estate/old-town-apartment-project-faces-new-obstacle. The first reason to allow this project to move forward is that it would be a valuable addition to the neighborhood. The second reason is to help Old Town do its’ part to slow displacement in less well off neighborhoods around the city. I’ll go on to discuss the foolish and damaging opposition to the project. You should not let a small, often malicious, group of homeowners prevent progress in your ward. 

This project would turn a parking garage into housing while preserving the facade. Housing is a much better use of space in dense walkable neighborhoods like Old Town than parking. The new residents will patron the local shops and restaurants. In a post pandemic world our local spots are going to need all the support they can get.

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Zoning and Race In Chicago

A couple quotes by Amanda Williams are important for starting to understand race and zoning in Chicago:

“Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States. When you grow up in a place like this, where there are invisible lines that you should not cross, places that don’t belong to you, then your whole perception of the way the world operates is the grid.”

Amanda Williams

“It’s a metastasis baked into every kernel, from planning and zoning, to multi- and single-family housing, and conversations about public and private space.”

Amanda Williams

‘respecting local attitudes’

As I read through The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein I’m going to capture tidbits that I find compelling. From the last paragraph of Chapter 1 page 37:

“Reflecting on public housing in his state, Carey McWilliams, who had been California’s housing commissioner in the early years of World War II, later wrote that “the federal government [had] in effect been planting the seeds of Jim Crow practices throughout the region under the guise of ‘respecting local attitudes.'”

The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein

We can only wonder what our urban areas would look like today if, instead of creating segregation where it never, or perhaps barely, existed, federal and local government had pushed in the opposite direction, using public housing as an example of how integrated living could be successful.