Tuesday, October 30, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINIONS || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A residential security map of Chicago, circa 1939, created by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC).
Areas on the map marked by red are neighborhoods “most often inner city neighborhoods going through racial transition from white to black, and as such, an entire area or community could be ‘redlined’ with the arrival of an African American family.” | contractbuyersleague.blogspot.com
The Chicago Tribune’s recent deep dive into the suffocating water rates affecting residents in majority black, lower-income suburbs like Maywood is just the latest in a litany of reports that tell many of us who live in these places, like myself and Amy Luke (whose letter can be read here), what we already know and intuit.
We pay too much for critical functions, like running water that is often wasted because of aging, dilapidated infrastructure and bad management. We are overtaxed. We are under-serviced and rarely sold to by businesses who pay taxes in our communities. The list can be added to.
The fact that places like Maywood and Harvey are so often black is not because they’re governed by black people, but because they’ve been systemically abandoned by progress, just as African Americans were largely ignored by a raft of “progressive” policies like the New Deal and the GI Bill and Aid to Dependent Children and federally subsidized mortgages.
Read the article we published this week in print on Maywood’s first black mayor (click here) and you’ll see that many of the issues Maywood is confronting now were prevalent 40 years ago. Black suburbs, like Black America, have been mired in a long crisis not of their making. In fact, they are the very byproducts, the effluent, of this country’s long tradition of profit-seeking with reckless and racist abandon.
What needs to happen now is for the residents of these suburbs to take real personal responsibility — not the kind that’s been perverted to protect the powerful from the consequences of their actions.
Real personal responsibility means taking ownership of one’s suffering — learning and understanding how we got here and who and what is responsible, holding those people and forces accountable, and extracting justice for ourselves and our posterity. It means realizing the power that we have and coming together in solidarity.
What does that look like in real life? Only time, dialogue and organization will tell. But the dialogue has to be had. If nothing else, the leaders of these suburbs need to be convening regular and ongoing conversations about high property taxes and service fees and other issues that they suffer in common. And they need to be talking not just among themselves but with allies and foes alike.
They need to be talking about the history of these issues, how they came about; but they also need to take ownership of their actions and understand how they may be exacerbating them. They need to identify problems and seek solutions in common.
They need to band together, form a power bloc, identify potential policy solutions and pressure legislative bodies to enact them.
And what power these leaders have to enact solutions among themselves — through ordinances that their own city councils and boards can create, through sound governance and effective management, for instance — ought to be exercised. VFP
P A I D A D