As a child, one thing seared into my heart was how much my late father worked so hard to strive for the American dream that always seemed to elude him.
Like many Blacks before him, he came from the South as a young man in the 1950s, hoping to escape overt racism and discrimination and find more job opportunities. But the reality is it followed him here. He worked nights for the city while completing his bachelor’s degree in math at Northwestern University, but when he applied for civil service engineering jobs, the interviewers simply laughed at him and gave the jobs to white counterparts without a degree.
I know that feeling of rejection stung.
My parents divorced when I was just a baby in the ‘70s, but several years prior to that in the early ‘60s, they had hoped to purchase a home. Back then it was difficult for Blacks to get home loans, and they were unable to secure a mortgage. Ironically, the banks didn’t have any issue with them getting a few loans for a three-flat apartment building on Cottage Grove, which was way more expensive than the single-family home loan they were originally seeking. That’s because to the lenders, the building represented income property. Plus, the owner was desperate to unload the building, and they needed a place to live for their growing family.
In our two-part cover story series, Darryl Holliday shows us that some people are still thinking about Black migration like it’s 1964.
We elected a president who has no issue with putting community development block grants on the chopping block. Nationwide, voter rights have been challenged left and right, gerrymandering has run amuck and civil rights in general just seem under attack. And while all that political game-playing is unfolding, the day-to-day drama in our urban communities has some looking to leave for better options.
The sad truth is, if you don’t have money or family, the people on the other side are not going to make it easy for you. They’ve got you figured out before you even arrive. But a Gallup poll that came out just a few weeks ago shows that there are a decent number of people who are concerned that we can’t just get along. Forty-two percent of Americans say they personally worry a “great deal” about race relations, a 17-year record high for the popular polling company.
Heeding Obama’s Message
This is going to sound cliché, but in 2008 I totally bought into President Obama ushering us into a new era for race relations. My more cynical friends expressed to me that things never really changed, we just are more aware of how people truly feel. No matter what people say, Obama represents some modicum of hope that we’ve come a long way. At any case, I’ve never had anyone laugh at the gall of me applying for a job I’m completely qualified for.
I am encouraged by the developments in the town of Rockford. Yes, there was fierce opposition, but the new affordable-housing complex is still happening. The groundbreaking ceremony pictures have Black and white faces celebrating. Hopefully, the majority of hard feelings will be set aside, as once hard-line resident Don Bondick stated, and the new neighbors will be welcomed.
You may have noticed that this issue’s section headers have a decidedly Kwanzaa overtone. That comes from me believing that the principles behind Kwanzaa should be our focus all year long, not just during the holidays. If we work together, we can continue to make significant changes and opportunities in our own communities.
It seems like every week I see a panel discussion advertised to discuss solutions for fighting violence or uplifting our people in urban areas. Conversation is good, but I do believe that a lot of our solutions start at home. Fix that and the draw to leave may not be so strong.
One thing I’ve always loved about my dad and his family is how they helped each other move forward in life. They stuck together through health issues, racial discrimination, legal trouble and untimely losses. Isn’t that personal safety net with good schools and a house all most of us have ever really wanted? Hopefully, 50 or 60 years from now, the next struggling generations won’t still be fighting just to live the American dream.