The Role of Discrimination and Cabrini Green in Chicago

In his introduction to City of Rhetoric, David Fleming expresses the huge difference between the North and the South of Chicago when it comes to racial discrimination. While Fleming explains how the ‘North side’, as the locals call it, was known to be one of the most troubled neighborhoods, the south side was believed to be an elite group of people that had very much self interest. It was run by the African American matriarchy, which might also have been part of the reason why the Southern Chicagoans did not pay much attention to it. In the late 1990s, when it came to white middle classed families, racism was an intrinsic trait. In fact, the people committing these ra

cist endeavors may not even have been aware that they were doing so. It can even be argued that racism and discrimination is still instilled in some communities to this day.

Throughout the introduction to the book, Fleming continually talks about how most families in the South were not comfortable being around African American people, and how the presence of African Americans was not justified. In the beginning, there is much proof that white families dominated every part of Chicago. When the first few African American families settled there, there wasn’t a lot of protest. As described in the book, “… the coming of blacks to the Italian North Side was relatively peaceful: perhaps because the number of blacks was not at first very large or because the two groups were equally destitute or because Italians got along better with blacks than other immigrant groups did.” (3).

Cabrini Green was an organization that was created in order to better the Northern community and brings awareness to the rest of Chicago on what kind of events are happening regarding discrimination. There was a building that was supposed to help the members of the society to live a normal life with the same privileges as anyone else. Unfortunately, at first, this organization did not seem to sway the thoughts of the Southern Chicagoan community. As it explains, “Cabrini Green was now largely hidden from the rest of the world and only noticed when violence there became too horrendous to overlook.”” (7).  This part of the community was extremely underdeveloped. There were no shopping centers, movie theatres, banks, or any other general institution that neighborhoods usually have. It got to the point where it was so bad, that outsiders started to offer to step in and help. This is saying a lot, since usually the outsiders refused to even recognize that part of town. The sudden interest of Cabrini Green sparked change in the neighborhood, but still, no one knows the exact reason why people started to help in the first place. Were they genuinely concerned for the lives of the people who lived in that neighborhood? Were they being offered money to act like they cared? I personally found it very odd that people were suddenly so focused on helping out other people when they haven’t even be acknowledging them.

David Fleming makes some great points throughout the introduction, including some personal anecdotes of what he saw when he began visiting Cabrini Green for the first time. I believe that these people have the ability to completely change the negative connotation that this neighborhood holds, as long as the people around them who are helping are actually motivated to do so.

Cabrini Green: Before and after

Before the construction

Before the construction

After the construction

After the construction

As I was researching the history of Cabrini Green and all that it has done for the community, I was very surprised to see what it was like before and after the public started to help. Above are two pictures showing what Cabrini Green was like before and after. As seen, before, there are piles of garbage in and around the building, which shows that it was definitely not a place that many people took care of. On the right, however, the building looks much more developed and cleaned up. This shows the power that people have on a society; the power that we have to make a difference.


Works Cited

CLIFFORD, By STEPHANIE, WGN-TV News Desk WGN News – May 18, 2010, WGN-TV News Desk, and BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter. “The Transformation of a Neighborhood.” Home. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2016

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. Print.


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