Crime is down, but the number of Cook County teens convicted on adult felony charges continues to grow.
Resisting the Dream
It sounded like an Oscar Meyer Weiner commercial, but the chant spoke to the crowd's virulent resistance to the marchers' demands that the neighborhood open itself to black residents:
I wish I were an Alabama trooper
This is what I would truly love to be
Because if I were an Alabama trooper
Then I could kill the niggers legally
During the summer of 1966, the Chicago Freedom Movement's open-housing marches through communities like Gage Park on the Southwest Side and Belmont Cragin on the Northwest Side showed that the bitter opposition to racial integration was still alive.
Ransom helped design the march routes. "They were looking at a people of color and rejecting them at face value," he said of the hecklers in Marquette Park.
The Chicago Reporter is examining King's 1966 Chicago campaign to see what can be learned about present day Chicago. This third installment looks at the resistance King and others met and how much of it continues today.
As the march through Marquette Park proceeded, a rock the size of a fist hurtled through the air and struck King behind his right ear. In an ominous foreshadowing of his assassination just 20 months later, the civil rights leader fell to the ground. Helped to his feet, King gathered himself for a minute before continuing the march. Another heckler threw a knife at King. The knife whizzed by the civil rights leader, lodging instead in the neck of a young white marcher.
I've been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen---even in Mississippi and Alabama---mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I've seen in Chicago," a shaken King said later. "I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate."
Forty years after King was struck by a rock in Marquette Park, sustained violent campaigns against black families moving into white neighborhoods have almost completely disappeared. In part due to the Chicago Freedom Movement's efforts, a national Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 that led to the outlawing of some of the overt discrimination that black renters experienced before the movement.
But all is not perfect in Chicago.
Racial minorities still confront resistance from real estate agents who direct them toward minority communities. Some blacks moving into predominantly white communities still encounter hostility from existing residents, while many Latinos face selectively enforced occupancy standards and exclusionary zoning policies.
And since 1966 hundreds of thousands of whites have departed from neighborhoods as blacks have moved into those communities---much like the response to black newcomers during the decades leading up to King's arrival in Chicago. More recently, however, the departure of whites has been most extensive in communities with growing Latino populations.
While King may have viewed the movement of large numbers of African Americans and Latinos into previously closed neighborhoods as a positive development, it is unlikely that he would have approved of the simultaneous white departures, according to Ransom.
Rob Breymaier, director for community relations at the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, suggested that the events of the past 40 years have led to both whites and racial minorities resisting integration, but he made a distinction between the groups' motivations. The council disbanded in June due to financial difficulties. "There is enduring resistance to integration on both sides, mostly by whites," Breymaier said. "The difference is that some white people don't want integration because of ignorance, fear and hatred. With African Americans and Latinos, it's not based on fear and hate, but based on a concern of what [their] voice will be in the community."
Breymaier attributed continued resistance to a combination of individuals' racist attitudes and a number of structural factors like affordable housing, school funding and income inequalities. "[These are] all factors in what opportunities are available to minorities and what the perceived consequences of integration might be," he said.
The violent resistance to blacks integrating white communities did not begin 40 years ago in Marquette Park---and it was not the only way blacks were kept out of white neighborhoods.
Backed for many years by restrictive covenants that prohibited selling or renting housing to blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities, Chicago's real estate community had played a significant role in defining the city's neighborhoods along racial lines. And, since the earliest years of the 20th century, residents of Chicago's white ethnic neighborhoods had a longstanding tradition of spontaneous and systematic violence and intimidation toward black people who challenged those boundaries.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court saw the enforcement of racially restrictive covenants unconstitutional in 1948, blacks still encountered physical aggression upon moving into white neighborhoods.
Arnold Hirsch, professor of history at the University of New Orleans and author of "Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960," notes that nearly two-thirds of violent incidents took place in communities immediately adjacent to the old South Side Black Belt.
Perhaps the most well-known incident of violence occurred during the summer of 1951 in nearby Cicero. For several days, a mob of thousands of whites burned and looted an apartment building that housed the family of Harvey E. Clark Jr., a black bus driver. The rampage stopped only after hundreds of National Guardsmen and local law enforcement officials were called into action by Gov. Adlai Stevenson.
On Aug. 8, 1966, three days after the Marquette Park march, Jesse Jackson Sr., then a staff member of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, unleashed an announcement that seemed to guarantee more bloody conflict. Speaking at Warren Avenue Congregational Church, Jackson declared that he would march in arguably the most anti-black neighborhood in the Chicago area. "I have counted up the cost," Jackson exclaimed. "I'm going to Cicero!"
Jackson's pronouncement spurred Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley to action. Already strained by the negative publicity from the fracases during the marches, Daley sought in multiple ways to begin negotiations between King and others in the movement, and leaders of the city's financial and real estate communities.
These negotiations culminated in the Summit Agreement. The accord called the city to more vigorously enforce its open-housing ordinance, and the Chicago Real Estate Board would urge its members to obey the law and would drop opposition to proposed fair housing legislation. The agreement also contained a provision calling for the creation of a separate and continuing body to oversee the accord's implementation. This body became the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities.
But white resistance to racial integration in Chicago did not end with the signing of the Summit Agreement.
During the past 40 years, Chicago has seen massive losses of white residents as the numbers of racial minorities have grown in communities that had been predominantly white. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of whites in Chicago declined by nearly 67 percent, from more than 2.7 million to about 900,000. More than 70 percent of that decline occurred on the city's South and West sides, according to census figures.
Amanda Seligman, professor of history and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and author of "Block by Block: Neighborhoods and Public Policy on Chicago's West Side," said that during the 1950s and 1960s many whites tried to discourage black newcomers by gathering in mobs at black homes and organizing white solidarity movements. "Finally, when none of those strategies worked, they removed themselves from the neighborhoods," Seligman said of the white West Siders.
Often referred to as "white flight," the exodus of whites peaked during the 1950s and 1960s, when blocks changed from white to black, sometimes in a matter of weeks.
In the 1960s, five community areas shifted from being at least 67 percent white to at least 67 percent black, the largest such racial change during any single decade in Chicago's history. For example, in Avalon Park on the city's South Side, between 1960 and 1970, the black population grew from less than 1 percent to more than 82 percent. And, in West Garfield Park on the city's West Side, the black population increased from 16 percent to 97 percent.
Between 1970 and 2000, neighborhood change from white to black still occurred but at a much slower pace---three communities shifting from being at least two-thirds white to at least two-thirds black.
More significant shifts have occurred in neighborhoods that have witnessed a large influx of Latinos. Six communities that were two-thirds white in 1970 were two-thirds Latino by 2000. And four more---Avondale, Belmont Cragin, Logan Square and McKinley Park---are predicted to complete similar turnovers by 2010, according to Metro Chicago Information Center, a research organization.
The Latino population more than doubled in 23 Chicago community areas during the 1990s. In those communities, the combined white population decreased by 100,306 or two-thirds of the city's overall decline in white population during the decade.
The three communities with the greatest increases in Latinos---Belmont Cragin, Brighton Park and Gage Park---changed from a combined 62 percent white and 34 percent Latino in 1990 to 72 percent Latino and nearly 22 percent white in 2000.
"There are still communities where Latinos move in, [and] other people move out," said Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Latinos United, a nonprofit organization that promotes fair housing for Latinos. "I would call it a second wave of white flight."
But Camille Z. Charles, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, was less convinced that whites moving out of Chicago neighborhoods constituted flight. While acknowledging the power of race and anti-immigrant sentiment, she also pointed to the rapid economic growth of the 1990s as a potential contributing factor to whites' departures. "It's also possible the whites were leaving because they achieved solid middle-class status and were able to purchase up," said Charles, noting that Latinos, like African Americans before them, exhibited a pattern of moving out of concentrated ethnic communities into adjacent neighborhoods.
However, white concerns about living in neighborhoods with African Americans and Latinos endure, according to research conducted by Maria Krysan, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.
Between 1992 and 1994, Krysan conducted residential preference research through surveys of 2,810 whites in Detroit, Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Of the whites interviewed in Detroit, Boston and Atlanta, 38 percent said they would consider removing themselves from their neighborhoods if black people moved in, Krysan said.
Close to one in every six of the whites who said they would consider leaving gave overtly racist reasons for their potential decisions, Krysan said. "What can I say---I just don't like blacks" and "They would beat my kids to death---the black kids would" were some of the reasons, according to Krysan.
She explained that another third of whites who said they would consider leaving spoke about fears of decreasing property values---a concern similar to that shared by whites who protested King and the other marchers in Marquette Park 40 years ago. "The percentage of black people predicts and controls the perception of crime," Krysan said. "Many whites' vision is colored by pre-existing stereotypes."
Krysan also found negative stereotypes about Latinos among whites she surveyed in Los Angeles. These stereotypes included beliefs about gangs, crime, violence and poor property upkeep.
Other methods of resistance persist in Chicago and some suburban communities. In 2000, a Chicago-area housing discrimination study conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that Latinos and blacks, more often than whites, faced discrimination in the housing market. Latinos, in particular, were presented with less favorable mortgage choices and were not shown home choices that were made available to whites.
Nearly one third of Latino renters, more than one quarter of Latino homebuyers, 14 percent of black renters and 16 percent of black homebuyers more often faced discrimination than whites, according to HUD.
In addition, real estate agents and advertisements often promote racially segregated communities, said the Leadership Council's Breymaier, who oversaw the testing. He cited the "I-57 Divide" in which whites were shown properties in white communities west of the interstate like Oak Forest and Tinley Park, and blacks were directed east toward black communities like Markham and Hazel Crest.
And, while racially restrictive covenants have disappeared, selective enforcement of housing occupancy codes and exclusionary zoning policies have become more recent obstacles for blacks and Latinos, according to Irizarry of Latinos United.
In 1996, for example, the U.S. Department of Justice found the City of Waukegan in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The department said that city targeted Latinos through its implementation of an occupancy code that redefined a family as parents, their children and two additional relatives. According to the 1990 census, for every 100 Hispanic households in Waukegan there were nearly 57 "other relatives," like siblings or grandchildren, living in the same household with nuclear families, the department said. By contrast, for every 100 white households, there were close to eight "other relatives" living in the same household with nuclear families.
In addition, some of these zoning codes, minimum lot size or square footage requirements work against affordable housing and, by extension, many Latinos and African Americans, Irizarry said.
The Summit Agreement that King and other leaders signed in August 1966 was designed, at least in principle, to diminish resistance to racial integration. Many have derided the agreement and the movement in Chicago as a failure. But the movement, along with earlier civil rights struggles, provided inspiration to many people in other marginalized communities in the city.
In the series' final installment, the Reporter will examine the Chicago Freedom Movement's lasting impact and the state of activism in Chicago today.