Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carol Mosley-Braun and the Crackhead Comment

When mayoral hopeful Carol Mosley Braun called her opponent Patricia Watkins-Van Pelt a crack head not only did Mosley Braun paint herself as an insensitive elitist, she also perpetuated the stereotype of so-called crack heads as degenerates. Crack head has become a catch-all phrase to describe the undesirables roaming our streets.

But those of us sharing living space with them in blighted urban communities know that they are no more the Frankenstein monsters the media smear campaign has made them out to be than celebrities who have a revolving door in and out of drug rehab. Not all of them smoked the mutha@#$%@#$ TV like Gator from Jungle Fever, but are more like Dicky from the Fighter who do more harm to himself than others. Rich people and/or celebrities have substance abuse problems; poor people are crack heads no matter their drug of choice is.

What Mosley Braun doesn’t know is that Crack heads are assets as well as nuisances to the community. We have a love-hate relationship with them; we don’t like what they do, but we don’t mind their help when we’re in a pinch. For a few dollars, these substance abusers will do any outside work you might need done. Take the recent blizzard for example. Some of us would still be digging out if it were not for the locals with their handy shovels looking to make a few dollars.

Contrary to popular belief, they are not all lazy, shiftless folk looking for a handout. They work year around trying to earn a little cash. In the winter they shovel, in the spring they cut grass and wash cars, and in the fall they rake leaves—a handyman for all seasons. I know there are those sitting on high pointing an accusing finger that those who give them money are supporting their habit, and that might be so, but the way I see it, many of us have an addiction of some sort—food, sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, social networking etc.—and we feed it. So, who am I to pass judgment on someone who offers to shovel my snow for a few bucks?

Friday, February 4, 2011

2011 Blizzard Musings

Whereas Mother Nature might be the great equalizer, the clean-up after reminds of the inequities we still face in our society. Forecasts for a blizzard to hit Chicago were projected far in advance thanks to the wonders of modern technology, so people were able to prepare as much as humanly possible for a date with Mother Nature, and a date it was—strong winds, knee deep snow and dropping temperatures.
The morning after the storm I stepped out on my porch to visually drink the raw beauty of nature. The houses, treetops, bushes cars and sidewalks were all gently blanketed by the purity of whiteness. Then later as the sun yawned and stretched across the noon sky, life emerged from the stillness people started coming out--to shovel, dig out, talk and laugh—all while marveling at the mass accumulation of snow.

I live in Roseland, a neighborhood best known in the last decade or so for murder and mayhem. Who can forget the beating death of Darion Albert when it was caught on tape and went viral for the world to see? But on Wednesday morning, we were a group of neighbors, many of whom have known each other for years outside clearing away the residual of the storm that engulfed our city and I wondered where the news crews were on a day like to today when something good was happening in the ‘hood.
After two days of peace and quiet, lazing around and catching up, it was it was back to work on Friday. People had shoveled out and left piles of snow in the street, and there were no signs of city trucks coming our way. So, I had to get my Honda Accord SE that sits low to the ground over a mountain of snow. It was not working, but my neighbors came out and assisted. As I drove to work I saw that the inequities that we face daily had returned as Mother Nature retreated.

On the Southside of Chicago, streets are not shoveled and snow is not as readily picked up as it is on the north side and in the suburbs. Even in areas where people do shovel their walkways, our blocks our plagued by so many abandoned buildings that for every house that has a clean sidewalk, there is a house or two buried in snow.
Mother Nature may not discriminate, but city services do.