Editor’s Note: May-June 2008

In 30 years, you can learn a lot of lessons. But apparently it’s not long enough for many in Chicago.

Thirty years ago, I was in 3rd grade on the South Side. Most of my classmates were black. The graduating 8thgrade class was white. It was a stark reminder of the rapidly changing Auburn Gresham neighborhood where I live and spent most of my childhood.

The 1960s and 1970s were marked by white flight–”thousands of families fled to the suburbs as African Americans began to integrate their neighborhoods. Middle-class black people eventually followed, leaving South and West side neighborhoods predominantly black and largely poor.

The families that fled still commuted to Chicago for work and nightlife, creating roadway congestion.

For decades, the issues of race and class have clouded people’s judgment, creating a steep price to live in racially and economically homogenous neighborhoods. In this issue, The Chicago Reporter explores two ways in which those choices have cost us–”and the toll they will continue to exact upon us if we don’t change.

In “Car Sick,” Jeff Kelly Lowenstein illustrates the mistakes we’ve made managing regional transportation. If we don’t abandon our obsession with the car, move closer to work, expand our public transit capacity and use it, we could lose up to $750 billion in the next 30 years.

And without some attitude adjustments, the $1.6 billion facelift to public housing in Chicago might not sufficiently lift the boats of the city’s poor.

Public housing’s transformation from poverty-stricken, high-rise buildings to economically diverse townhouses and low-rise apartments is an untested and unproven model. The economic mix sought by the Chicago Housing Authority is almost nonexistent today, as Kari Lydersen reveals in “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

And the hundreds of families who’ve jumped on the “mixed-income” bandwagon have hit a few potholes during the first few years in the CHA’s newest developments, according to Natalie Y. Moore’s story “There’s No Place Like Home.” Marred by apprehension and tension, these developments lack the interaction and camaraderie of true neighborhoods. How can the poor benefit from their middle-class neighbors if they don’t know them?

We continue to be reluctant to live among folks who are different. Not only is that response insensitive to people we only think we really know, it’s also inefficient for all of us.

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