By Arlene Jones
'Pay attention" is a rallying cry that every member of the black community needs to keep at the forefront. Many of us have been on a mental/political/action vacation, mesmerized by having elected the first black president. However, America has not been in that same "lull" and as the reality of Obama's eight years in office comes to an end, we need to address and pay attention to attacks against the black community.
Not all the attacks are hard. Some are soft. They slowly erode the foundation, bit by bit. An example: the recent decision by the city to make major changes to the Bud Billiken Parade. First, the start time was moved up an hour. Then the number of participants was limited, causing the South Shore Drill Team to pull out. If there is one thing that black folks need, it's to always be smarter than those who think they can pull stunts to obstruct us.
Now there are rumors that the major chain grocery store being built on 38th and King Drive may be a player — not wanting a major shopping day to be interrupted by a parade that can last up to six hours. So the same people who wanted a grocery store are being kicked in the butt by the folks they invited in. Reminds me of the story of the snake brought in from the cold who bites his rescuer, then tells his surprised benefactor, "You knew I was a snake when you took me in." This year's parade was over before it got started. Coincidence or conspiracy? I say the latter.
Who else besides me recalls how the mayor plotted just prior to his re-election to rename Stony Island "Bishop Brazier Way"? The outcry was such that the plan didn't go through. But it's a reminder: To manipulate black folks, certain people will do and say anything so long as the outcome is what they want. Need black folks' votes? Attempt to rename a major street after a popular black preacher. Want black folks out of the city? Do everything you can to undermine or eliminate their institutions and positive traditions.
I recall talking to a woman who told me how her husband had a well-known BBQ joint on the West Side. The city tore up the street in front of his business and left it that way for a year. Without car traffic, the business was out of business. I have personally seen how certain city agencies will go out of their way to go after black business owners while ignoring the same occurrences in other areas. Every ethnic group knows how to disrespect black folks without needing to get a detailed, specific memo to do so.
Another attack against all Chicagoans, but one that hits the black community especially hard, is the recent water bill, amounting to over a thousand dollars a year. Every alderman should suffer the wrath of their constituents for having authorized that exorbitant rate for water — especially when some areas of the city have been illegally converted into multifamily housing and the city has been lax about installing a water meter. The city ignores bungalows that are holding too many people illegally, yet when black folks were putting their houses on Airbnb, the city was quick to attempt a crackdown and legislate it. We need to remember that those who run this city, even when they profess to be our friends, need to have someone keep an eye on them. Otherwise we end up bitten by the very snake we failed to remember is a snake.
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