Black Communities Redifing the Home in South Chicago

Within the seventh chapter, Home: 1230 North Burling Street, Fleming argues that a combination of misrepresentation of poverty by those who live outside the projects in combination with social fragmentation has led to a decrease in positive change within south Chicago. He states that the main point of conflict is that the residents are seen as the problem in the area rather than the societal structure that has been set in place. Those who live outside these communities have taken it on themselves to “save” these areas from poverty when in reality they do not truly understand what it means to live there. Fleming says this starts with a basic misunderstanding of the citizens due to language.

The introduction to the chapter ends with a massively important question. What if the residents could decide their own neighborhood structure? The way this question is assembled grammatically shows that a separation exists between those who are residents and those who are not. They are not all just citizens of the city, but instead those who have and those who do not. Fleming again expands upon this problem by citing that others outside of the Cabrini Green community equate public housing with poverty, associate the poor practically with an entirely different community of beings and are too influenced by the media who too easily throw around terms like “killing fields” and “hellish hi-rises.” The city’s two largest papers have been too invested in displacing citizens in favor of rebuilding communities that they do not seem adequate to the outside looking in. This lack of empathy has essentially disenfranchised entire neighborhoods from having a say on what is to be done with their homes. Fleming begins to delve deeper and eventually revels that the problem is not that the rest of the city does not value the homes of others, but instead have been trained using language to not think of these structures as homes at all.

As is expected, the residents living inside areas such as Cabrini Green do not take a majority of their information from news reports like the surrounding areas do. They rely instead on lived experience and the deep social ties that are formed with one another as citizens working toward a common goal of better living conditions. Unfortunately, Fleming outlines structural and strategic constraints that play just as detrimental a role on this community. However, initiatives such as Chicago Housing Tenants Organization and Resident Management Corporations have put the power back in the hands of the people. This has turned the tide of the normative order that seems so foundational to Fleming’s argument in the early parts of the chapter. The idea that poor black communities are being offered an opportunity to rebuke the previous attitude of indifference due to a lack of political sway in elections  not only feels like an opportunity for structural revitalization for the buildings in south Chicago, but a precedent in human rights the world over.

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