David G. Whiteis | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Are there alternatives to calling 911?

Definitely good points raised by the article. In a lot of our communities (most likely not frequented by the "predominantly white" attendees of this session, who for some reason needed to be "educated" about people who aren't like they are, and the relationship many of "those people" have had with the police for most of their lives), the cops are seen as basically just one more gang, decked out in their colors and flashing their guns; many (most?) folks see themselves as caught between this gang and the so-called "street gangs" that terrorize them with equal ferocity. In the immortal words of Martha Reeves: "Nowhere to Run." This, of course, is why calling the cops is a no-no in a lot of neighborhoods.

The unfortunate downside of this, though, is that if we don't call the cops, we end up settling our disputes on our own. Instead of having someone arrested for stealing from us or burglarizing our home or sexually attacking us (or our children), we confront them, it will very likely turn violent, and someone is going to get killed. So once again we're in a Hobson's choice, damned (or shot) if we do, damned (or shot) if we don't.

There are, of course, instances where there may be no alternative than to call the police. If you're being stalked, and that person is pounding on your door and screaming threats at 2:00 in the morning, you may not be thinking of "punishment" (or, for that matter, "rehabilitation:).
You just want to get them the fuck away from your door, and somehow ensure that they won't be back soon. The only alternative to 911, in that case, might be to get in touch with a local person known on the street as someone not to fuck with, cajole or pay them to do what needs to be done to get the stalker to quit . . . and then we're back to the above scenario.

Then there are those cases when someone feels the need to call the police to protect others, not him/herself -- e.g., seeing an obviously impaired driver weaving down the highway at a high speed. I'm not sure what the alternatives here are, either.

So . . . I agree 100%; calling the cops is problematic, and it too often causes at least as many problems as it solves. In the real world, though, I fear that the available alternatives will lead to just as many unintended consequences, many of them just as tragic.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by David G. Whiteis on 11/09/2017 at 2:06 PM

Re: “The Chicago Housing Authority’s sleeping giant

I've long believed that the entire nationwide initiative to get rid of housing projects, although marketed as a way of getting residents "out of the ghetto," was a not-so-clandestine effort to do exactly what this article suggests: dilute their collective power, at the ballot box and elsewhere.

If my memory serves me correctly, quite a few cities embarked on programs like this in the wake of the Rodney King riots in 1992; by then, quite a few major cities had elected African-American mayors, and especially in places like Chicago, where that mayor was not only a Black man but a true political progressive, it was sending shock waves through the white political establishment. That kind of political power among "those people" had to be stopped at all costs. So it seemed to be no coincidence that "urban renewal" once again represented a thinly disguised strategy of "Negro Removal".

One quibble: I wish the article had given appropriate credit to the late Beauty Turner, a tireless housing/social justice activist who led the initiative to organize the [ultimately failed] struggle to resist the demolition of the projects. Ms. Beauty, a resident of Robert Taylor, was a dear friend of mine, and she would be proud to see this article -- but she certainly deserves credit, alongside other heroes like Marion Stamps, for helping to spearhead and keep alive the social movements the article describes.

7 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by David G. Whiteis on 10/19/2017 at 1:58 PM

Re: “The printed relics of Chicago’s predigital gangland

Depending on our definition of "gangs", it would appear that the business cards predate those '70s/'80s Chicagoans by quite a few years. For instance, there's this reminiscence from Anne Murphy, erstwhile girlfriend of Beat/hippie icon Neal Cassady, as related in a piece she wrote for Ken Kesey's magazine "Spit in the Ocean" in 1981:

"I was joyously 'gang-banged' by the Hell's Angels right before [Cassady's] eyes . . . Afterward, they handed me a card that read,'You have just been assisted by a member of the Hell's Angels, Oakland Chapter.' Neal left for New York right away."

David G. Whiteis

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by David G. Whiteis on 03/20/2017 at 1:51 PM

Re: “Disco Demolition Night according to its ringmaster, Steve Dahl

I definitely remember when I realized the racist, even neo-fascist implications of the anti-disco movement: at ChicagoFest, a group of three or four white guys were strutting by the "disco pavilion" (which had, if I recall, an almost entirely African-American clientele, shouting "CO-HO! DISCO SUCKS! CO-HO! DISCO SUCKS! CO-HO! DISCO SUCKS! CO-HO! DISCO SUCKS!" in tones and cadences so belligerent, hostile, and lockstep they sounded like nothing so much as Hitler Youth at a Nazi rally -- the Black folks inside looked appropriately startled, angry, and more than a little fearful.

That being said, on a purely musical basis I think it's safe to say disco was a mixed blessing. Some excellent musicians and singers arose out of the movement -- start with Chic; Earth, Wind, and Fire; Donna Summer; Gloria Gayner, and go on from there -- but on the other hand, critics of the genre's mechanical-sounding rhythms and overreliance on chrome-bedazzled ennui and cheap-thrills, by-the-numbers sexual lyric imagery had a point. Many folks, in fact, would argue that, in some of these ways, disco set trends that pop music and culture have never entirely gotten over. Let's remember that many Black musicians -- soul, R&B, and jazz musicians, among others -- were as critical of what they saw as the beat-driven, mechanized soullessness of disco as a lot of white reactionaries were; their criticisms should not be taken lightly.

Nonetheless, a true reckoning of the multifaceted impact of disco -- as a reaction, perhaps, to the perceived over-earnestness of the '60s/post-60s pop culture it largely arose as a response to, as well as an opportunity for a different kind of Black cultural expression (and, as eventually acknowledged, gay cultural expression, although I honestly believe that, at that time, most heterosexuals were so oblivious to the existence of something like "gay culture" they didn't really take this element into consideration at all, at least outside of major cities that already had thriving gay communities); as a reactionary, industry-driven response to the politically charged, socially conscious soul, R&B, and commercial jazz of the previous decade (David Porter of Stax, among others, has emphasized this in some of his commentary); and ALSO as a too-seldom cited example of white cultural appropriation (Travolta and the Bee Gees, not EW&F, Summer, et al., were the driving force behind making disco a "cool thing" among white trendies, most likely to the detriment of both the music and whatever social movement/ development it might potentially have represented) -- is long overdue, as well as an honest, even-handed appraisal of the music's critics and the reason[s] behind their critiques.

Steve Dahl, however, is not the right person to deliver this appraisal.

9 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by David G. Whiteis on 07/07/2016 at 3:43 PM

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