Another View of the Southwest Side | Letters | Chicago Reader

Another View of the Southwest Side 

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To the editors:

I must take exception to your story about Jim Capraro in your April 6th issue [Neighborhood News], or better I must take exception to "his facts" . . . they are an incorrect reflection of the Southwest side of Chicago.

Formerly, I lived on the southwest side (and still return to visit friends frequently), in the area west of Western, and chose 12 years ago to move to the suburbs where I do not "live like the Brady Bunch" and moreover resent strongly that all suburbanites live in that manner. Having lived in both situations, I certainly know from experience rather than hearsay which is Mr. Capraro's only suburban experience.

We now live in an area that is fully integrated. Our schools are integrated, as are the stores, apartments and all phases of the community. We have an Indian and an Oriental family on our block, as well as persons of Polish, Swedish, German, and Hispanic heritage. In addition, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, etc. within a six block area, thus the "Brady Bunch" suburban implication does not fit at all. And that is true of the western suburban area to where we "fled."

The antibusing issue took place in the area west of Western, the Bogan area to be specific. It was and has been built up to an anti-integration when in fact it was an issue of keeping up the Chicago Schools. And as I now look at the mess of the Chicago School System, it does seem that those "Bogan Broads," as they were called, had a good reason to oppose the busing but this issue has been twisted to fit the needs of persons such as Mr. Capraro. Again, I come from first hand knowledge of the busing issue.

The major reason the neighborhood west of Western is not likely to become all black has nothing to do with the north migration of blacks falling off. The reason is that this area of the city is a stronghold of police and firemen, city employees as it were, who can't live out of the city and this is the place in the city they chose to live . . . and since many of these employees are white the neighborhood does not change so fast. And this again has nothing to do with overcoming its reputation for bigotry as is implied.

These areas that he speaks of as changing from an area of "men in coveralls with ink or oil under their fingernails" must never have noticed all the firemen, policemen, executives or the secretaries who hopped the Norfolk and Western Train for that trip downtown that still live there. No these people have always been there, he just has never really looked.

As far as his idea that the "panic over racial change [has] exaggerated the area's problems, which for the city are minor" is one of the things which keeps that part of the city in turmoil. These problems are not minor for the people of these neighborhoods and are the same as the lady Mr. Capraro referenced in Edgewater.

Before I chose to move, this was and is still a major problem. I was a single again parent, and as a female found it dangerous to leave and return home at night. My neighbor had her purse stolen in front of her home at midnight when returning from work as a professional and had a nervous breakdown as a result. Rape and broken into homes are a reality. You could not then and you still can not as a white woman alone live safely or go out at night in that neighborhood. Check with the police reports.

In truth, most young middle-income home buyers don't want to live in that neighborhood, not because of what he calls "antics of racial extremist groups" but because the wives can't safely go out at night, and the schools are so poor, based on the current systems in the city. Why live in the city when you can go to the suburbs and truly have the best of all worlds: good housing with good resale value, good schools, good shopping, clean well kept homes on more spacious lots where children learn to live in a true well balanced integrated neighborhoods that don't have the fear factor.

Mr. Capraro needs to take a truly realistic look at his area. He should take off his rose-colored glasses, his area has serious problems and until they are REALISTICALLY SOLVED these kinds of articles just put more fuel on the fire, they do not help to solve the problems at hand. And certainly the group of young people he is dreaming of purchasing homes for real estate speculation are much too smart to be taken in by Mr. Capraro's dreams.

E. O'Keefe

Happy "former" southwest-side home owner

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