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The South Side
A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
by Natalie Y. Moore
St. Martin's Press
Book Review by Kam Williams
“Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emmanuel have touted Chicago as a 'world-class city.' The skyscrapers, the billion-dollar Millennium Park, Michelin-rated restaurants, pristine lake views, [the] vibrant theater scene, and stellar architecture tell one story.
Yet swept under the rug is another story: the stench of segregation that permeates and compromises Chicago... It's clear that Chicago is defined by it.
In this intelligent... narrative, Chicago native Natalie Moore shines a light on contemporary segregation in the city's South Side... [his book] highlights the impact of Chicago's historic segregation--and the ongoing policies that keep the system intact.”
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket
It was recently reported that Chicago lost more millionaires last year than any other American metropolitan area. What I found particularly fascinating is the fact that the Windy City's black millionaires are participating in the mass exodus, too. The reasons for fleeing most frequently cited are the rise in racial tensions and the skyrocketing crime rate.
This development made the idea of reading "The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation" all the more appealing. This intriguing examination of the city's black community was written by Natalie Moore, a native who was raised in Chatham, a solidly middle-class African-American enclave.
Moore, a reporter for WBEZ, the city's NPR radio station, puts both her journalistic and memoir writing skills on display here, fashioning an opus that mixes history lessons with many of her own personal reflections. In a chapter devoted to her childhood in Chatham, she recounts her father speaking of a de facto "black tax." This segregation tax exacted a heavy toll from folks living in African-American neighborhoods as reflected in public safety concerns, higher-priced goods and lower home values.
Nevertheless, the author bristles when the term "Chiraq" is used in reference to the South Side. In a chapter entitled "We are not Chiraq" she explains that she feels the conflating of Chicago and Iraq is racist because "it plays on fear" by suggesting that the black community is a war zone. Consequently, people who don't live on the South Side tend to internalize the negative images of it being incessantly disseminated by the media.
Overall, an alternately anecdotal and academic analysis making a misunderstood and marginalized-sector of Chicago more accessible.
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