By Natalie Y. Moore
Review by David Wineberg
In The South Side, local resident Natalie Moore weaves three themes into a long taut braid. There are her memoirs of growing up in south side Chicago, garlanded by its history and characters. There is the socioeconomic backdrop which altered that history and twisted it into less than it could have been and still could be. And there is the racism, overt, underlying and institutional that tortures countless lives. This is a worldwide phenomenon of course, but it is worthwhile to examine it in real terms in America’s Second City, which is mired in it, mostly thanks to machine local government.
Moore devotes chapters to housing, schools and food, pointing out the overt, the underlying and the institutional racism they incorporate. Her own experience is straight middle class, largely free of racist incidents and overt prejudice. Nonetheless, she has developed into a thoughtful, perceptive and in her words “uppity negress,” which is really fundamental to telling this story properly. The book is not scientific, prescriptive or complete; it is personal and selective.
The South Side ends on several positive notes, as barriers appear to be falling. Blacks and whites are mixing, housing is opening up some, and attitudes are slowly changing as integration and multiculturalism become assets rather than taboos. As one interviewee put it – segregation isn’t the problem; the diversion of resources is the problem. Blacks need not be desegregated to thrive; they need to stand up to whites to get access to the resources they have an equal say in and right to.
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