CHI-TOWN LOW DOWN: Chicago’s diverse population is divided, neglected

By Managing Editor

The city’s segregation problem has been the underlying theme in most of my columns this semester because it is at the root of increasing crime, gang violence and poverty rates.

Chicago is the seventh most diverse city in the U.S. However, the city is also the most segregated in the country, leaving communities sectioned off by racial demographics, according to a May 1 FiveThirtyEight.com report, which used data from Brown University’s American Communities project.

Chicago’s population is divided between Hispanics (29 percent), blacks (33 percent) and whites (32 percent), according to the report. The city as a whole is diverse, but neighborhoods lack variance such as Washington Park, which is 97 percent black.

Just minutes away from Chicago’s thriving and rich downtown neighborhoods and tourism hot spots, are low-income housing projects and homes boarded up, streets full of litter and not even safe enough for children to play in. The glowing Chicago skyline marks the spot where the city invests most of its money, and the Near West and South Side neighborhoods are left behind.

Racial segregation is not only extremely demeaning, but it also stunts economic growth in neighborhoods that need it most. These two things combined contribute to concentrated poverty, which results in higher crime rates, under performing public schools, access to employment and poor housing and health conditions.

Schools that don’t make the cut are closed, a lack of jobs results in turning to underground markets and housing and health conditions will continue to decline. These neighborhoods are not going to fix themselves.

In order to be a “world-class” city where every neighborhood thrives—not just the ones that tourists visit—the city needs to invest in each community and the people who make Chicago work.

Neglected neighborhoods have produced people who strive to change their communities, but perhaps bullets intended for gang members take their lives too soon. Broken households cause instability for children, and school closures affect one of the youth’s only opportunities to make it out of their “doomed” neighborhood.

I’m sure the city’s financial woes hold public officials back from investing lump sums into neighborhoods that give their city a bad rep, but hosting the NFL Draft from April 30–May 2, at no cost to the league in the name of tourism, seems like a hefty investment with no pay-off to the people of Chicago.

Downtown Chicago thrives, and it will continue to, as the city is a tourism destination with museums, historical sights and a breathtaking skyline. But it is time for the city to invest in the neighborhoods that desperately call to be recognized as a part of this so-called “world-class” city.

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