A few things seem obvious to me as I sink my teeth into trying to understand the behavior of the official City of Chicago (the politicians) towards its own public school system. For this edition (the first of several on Chicago Public Schools and its racist, classist, anti-worker, poverty-enhancing displacement of students and closings of resources), I’m going to look at the forest. And the outlay of the forest from a widespread and historical view says a lot about City Hall’s priorities. And despite the best Orwellian attempts at manipulating language, the powers-that-be at City Hall and the Chicago Public Schools, clearly, are not thinking of the children.
And that’s the problem. The primary priority isn’t to aid or mature or set students on a course for success. I don’t think they’re trying to fail them, either. It’s just that the students that are in the crossfires are looked upon as cannon fodder. They choose these schools because they figure it will be easier to push them around because they’re already on the margins anyway.
It’s nothing less than racism and classism. The same kind of racism and classism that has been institutionalized in the industrial North since Ford made his cities for White and Black workers around Detroit and since the Chicago Housing Authority was pushed by Daley, Sr., to segregate between white and and “encroaching” black citizens. Not to mention the redlining, the highways, the so-called urban renewal projects of the University of Chicago, the buffer area that protected the 1st Ward’s white residents from the growing black population. The fact that King said he’d never approached the type of racism he encountered in Chicago.
And then decades upon decades of disinvestment from, marginalization of, and criminalization of the black population (as is seen in our War on Drugs that disproportionately affects black males at rates of nearly twenty-to-one in Chicago in terms of police harassment, arrests, and sentencing, with much stiffer fines and imprisonments tending to go towards people of color when they are charged) leads us to today’s situation. It’s a tale that can probably be best overseen with maps.
|Map courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times|
The map here (that we showed on the topic of guns and race in Chicago) shows an outline of where murders in Chicago have happened in one year. Just one year. Notice that there are huge swaths of areas largely unaffected by homicidal violence – and others where streets are overrun by it. This isn’t a sign of moral failure of the population – but of moral failure of City Hall and of a society that allows for and supports racism and economic apartheid.
Notice the trends, again.
|Map courtesy of Horizon Mapping (which is another issue for another day, but…)|
Check out the map of schools that have been closed down over the last ten years (off site. Sorry)
Now look at the map of the elementary schools on the chopping block for closing. (If somebody could teach me how to search googlemaps for these images and bring them here, much obliged.)
Now, if those schools were closed down for better schools, there may be something happening here. But they weren’t. They were closed down for the same reason this next wave of schools will be closed down: To make way for privatized public schools with non-union and lower-paid teachers (charter schools). Not all charter schools are evil, but then again, not every person working in City Hall is evil either. The overall effect of charter schools, on the other hand? That’s what we’ll get into later.
But for now, recognize that the goal is to take money and wages from the workers and give them to the wealthy and connected through the process of privatizing public schools. The fact that it’s happening and negatively affects black and poor neighborhoods is an after-thought to City Hall. The fact that – once again – thousands of black and poor students will once again be displaced, and put in harm’s way (traveling through several gang territories) while traveling further to other underresourced schools for the whims of the powerful is a price to pay, according to downtown. The fact that hundreds upon hundreds of students with special needs will have to get acclimated to new schools and new teachers and further be robbed of their agency and decisions as to how their lives are affected is of little consequence for the heads at Chicago Public Schools, the bosses at City Hall, and their monied friends with benefits.
And that is evil. Unmistakable and unpardonable social evil.