I cannot go home again, cause I do not like it there. I was born and raised for 14 years in a nice middle-class area, South Shore, and now I am a member of a Facebook page for that old Chicago neighborhood of mine.
Often people will post an old photo of the area. The strolls down memory lane begin. Then someone will remark how nice it was until “they” destroyed the area. (My old neighborhood is sometimes referred to as Terror Town in the press.) By “they” I generally conclude they mean the Black people who now are the primary inhabitants of the community.
There are frequent laments about what a fine area it was and it has now deteriorated into a crime plagued ghetto. How great it was growing up there, back then. But there are some other truths to accompany the past. Whites fled the area. Blacks didn’t “take over”. Truth, before the Blacks arrived, I got chased regularly for being a dirty Jew. Many families in our nice community had raised their kids to be racist, anti-Semitic and just plain prejudiced against others.
I drive by my old home and cruise around the hood and see the changes. It is hard to see the decline which took place. But to speak about the changes as if they were foisted on the area, to speak code for Nigger, to act as if you were without options years ago is to do a disservice to what is and what was.
My family remained after the initial white flight. I was sent to boarding school for academic rehabilitation. My family moved to a smaller place in an adjacent neighborhood called Hyde Park. I got thrown out of boarding school, returned to Chicago and resumed my public school education alongside Blacks and Whites and others. My family never made an effort to shield me from the effects of living on the south side. I used public transportation or walked everywhere.
Many members of the South Shore Facebook page are former cops and many are former parochial school attendees. I have gently tried to prod some recognition out of some members. These are men that I remember. As boys though, they didn’t know me, despite living within blocks of me. Our social exchange back then was restricted to pushing me down in the snow, or chasing me down the street threatening to beat me up. But short of saying, hey I was that Jew you bullied, I have been unable to stimulate their memories of our good times together.
So it is nice to see the posted photos of the old toy store, the bowling alley, the drug store. It sure would be more fun to stroll memory lane without the recitations of racial animus that pervaded the community then as it transformed and the lingering racism found in former residents’ hearts today.
It isn’t like every post or every person makes the kind of comments I despise. But even one self-righteous ignorant comment is too many.
I was treated better by the Black children in my public schools in South Shore than I was ever treated by the Catholic parochial or public school kids. I hated the Italians, Polish and Irish boys who thought taunting us was great fun.
I have been in some Christian houses of worship lately. I have been welcomed and treated quite warmly in contrast to my childhood experiences. In fact, just today I went to the Fellowship Bible Church Dallas for a memorial. Incredible eulogy by a Pastor Greg Brandenburg. (When I see love in practice in Christianity I sometimes lament that I do not have that type of devotion and faith that many show for Jesus Christ.) I learned that it is not the religion which created the hate. It is the people, their parents, and the environment they choose to live and cloister within.
I could have mistaken Catholicism for a hate group at one time. But as an adult I have many friends who are devout Catholics. Nope, seems to me that hate and prejudice are choices. So buck up former south-siders. Do not let your disdain for “others” taint your memories, such that you feel compelled to blame “those people” for robbing you of your fond memories. I do not hate you for creating my hateful memories. Seems you can do as much for those that succeeded us.