Governmental Institutionalization of the Ghetto

In his “Part Two. Designing the Twenty-first Century Public Sphere”, Fleming describes how the blacks developed their own sense of community separate from the white communities. However, the isolation from white communities soon turned into ghettos lacking space, facilities, heating, and gas. The government developed the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to temporary provide housing for working people. Although the CHA normally would honor the cities racial geography, the negro population was so large and dense the began giving houses in the “white projects” to black veterans (76). This, of course, infuriated the whites, as they broke out in race riots every time the CHA moved a black family into the “white projects”. Interestingly, not many people heard of the riots because, “the police were notoriously inactive, inefficient, and biased during these riots” (76). In addition, the media also remained silent. Using Hirsch’s words here, the violence of these years were “hidden” (76).

In efforts to decrease the violence, a government-funded team of whites formulated plans to deal with the black ghettos. To start, they would build “white” institutions to draw back middle and upper-class whites, such as Michael Reese Hospital, Illinois Institute of Technology, among many other establishments (77). However, these institutions all were built on land on the South Side and in black ghettos. Following the creation of institutions, the professionals created the Blighted Areas Redevelopment and Relocation Act, “which provided authority and funds to clear Chicago’s slums and relax the poor (Hirsch, 107). After relocating the blacks, they would sell the land to private corporations who would build middle to high-end enclaves, to draw in upper-class citizens. Having to house for upper class citizens on the skirts of the black ghetto was supposed to act as a buffer between blacks and whites, along with the “white” institutions. However, all it did was shift the problems of social disorganization and crime deeper inside the ghettos. It only seemed to benefit the private developers, the new middle and upper-class residents, and the newly built “white” institutions. Obviously, this started leading to more tension between blacks, whites, and the government.

After the urban renewal, more than 1.4 million people were displaced.  The CHA built low-rise projects, maintained them well, and selected appropriate tenants (79). Unfortunately, along with many other policies, this seems good in theory. However, in practice, it only furthered segregation, containment, and social isolation of blacks from the rest of society. In addition, with the legislation set up in Chicago, the white neighborhoods could veto the CHA’s decisions. Originally trying to help, the CHA’s policies resulted in, “governmental institutionalization of the ghetto” (80). The segregation Chicago was seeing at the time was no accident.  It was the product of neighborhoods, whites, and the government.

Fig. 1. Image of “race riots” in minority communities; caused by unfair racial, economic, and political forces

On a larger scale, the issue of socially disorganized, inner-city ghettos is a big problem. Starting from racism, confining and concentrating blacks into ghettos and being followed with, economic change, welfare, and unemployment, lower-class communities are becoming more and more unstable. The middle-class families fled from areas surrounding the ghetto, breaking down the social buffer they originally were indented to provide. Any ghetto is a horrible place to raise children. They lack resources needed to engage efficiently and effectively in society. Due to their social isolation from mainstream society, they develop their own norms. There is a risk from walking on the street here. There is a mistrust in their government so people won’t call the police as a fear of being called a snitch. In 1986, police assured that anyone called would remain anonymous and only got 21 calls the entire year (89). The lack of cooperation stems from a distrust of government, only making them further and further from the mainstream population. Having different norms and lacking the social buffers continues to widen the gap between whites and blacks.

 Fleming, “David. City of Rhetoric.” Part Two. Designing the Twenty-first Century Public Sphere, SUNY Press, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *