A story of northern racism
In “The South Side,” Natalie Moore points out that while cultural diversity is worth celebrating, high-poverty black segregation is not.
The South Side
By Natalie Y. Moore (St. Martin’s Press, 2016)
To many outsiders, the South Side of Chicago is characterized by a constant stream of violence and unrest, even garnering the nickname “Chiraq.” While violence does exist, WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR affiliate) reporter Natalie Moore hates that term. She says dubbing a culturally rich area a war zone ignores the real predicament in segregated neighborhoods and dismisses residents as mere anonymous “war casualties.” There’s so much more to the South Side than just “Chiraq”; there’s community, there’s history, and there’s culture.
South Side native Moore writes in The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation what she calls a “story of northern racism,” addressing head-on the issue that most affects the city of Chicago: segregation. Chicago is made up of neighborhoods that cling to their historical, cultural, and racial identities. While Moore believes cultural diversity is “worth celebrating,” high-poverty black segregation is not.
Weaving together her personal experiences—growing up in a middle-class Black family and raising her own family in a predominately Black neighborhood—with well-researched statistics, Moore illustrates how segregation affects more than just housing patterns. It touches everything from education and nutrition to violence and politics. She points out how the deeply engrained systemic racism perpetuated by segregation affects the quality of life of Black Chicagoans—even for those like Moore and Barack and Michelle Obama, who didn’t grow up in poverty.
In today’s political and economic climate segregation is an issue worth dissecting. And The South Side does just that. The issue is seen in cities across America. While many believe it’s an issue too big to ever fix, Moore is hopeful. “Ending segregation surely won’t end racism, but its dismantling will provide better outcomes for black people,” she writes. And that’s surely a step in the right direction.
This article also appears in the December 2016 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 81, No. 12, page 41).