City of Rhetoric shows factors which facilitate the formation of a ghetto and the deleterious effects of living in such an environment.
How do areas become ghettos? Is it by chance? Are “bad people” simply attracted to other "bad people?" Is it planned, and if so, by who? In the chapter titled “Ghetto,” Fleming argues that the ghetto in Chicago was “consciously intended and methodically achieved by whites through both private and public means” (65). Fleming describes the history of Chicago and how each stage contributed to the development of a ghetto in Chicago. The unintended or intended effects of isolating a group of unanimously uninformed, black, poor, single-parenting citizens is a lack of public discourse and civic participation. Fleming’s work is also applicable to other ghettos. Below is a quick summary of Fleming’s main work to understand the approach taken throughout the website. The rest of this site is devoted to Detroit’s formation and the effects of its ghetto across time.
Intro and The First Ghetto:
- Over time Chicago was divided into sections that were infamous for their “segregation, and its stark inequality, [Chicago is] the quintessential American city of extremes” (Fleming, 66).
- The South Side of Chicago, where the new “black belt: was located, was the fastest growing part of the city” (Fleming, 68).
- “Early on in Chicago’s history strikes, “left a legacy of distrust between blacks and ethnic whites in the city” (Fleming, 68).
- “In 1908, the residents of Hyde Park organized an “Improvement Club” to keep blacks confined to certain districts” (Fleming, 69).
- In the beginning of the 20th century “in Chicago alone, the black population more than doubled (a 148 percent increase between 1910 and 1920)” (Fleming, 69).
- “In 1917, alarmed at what they saw as an overflowing black belt, white property owner associations on the South Side began to focus on “protecting” their neighborhoods from “racial succession,” the process whereby a residential area moves from dominance by one race to another” (Fleming, 70).
- The public schools in Chicago were becoming more segregated, with "two or three schools in the city [...] predominately black” (Fleming, 71).
- Public schools became increasingly segregated. In addition, gangs began to roam public parks, beaches, playgrounds and the streets of the city.
- In the 1930s, an area called Bronzeville became the heart of black America and viewed as the new promise land.
- Thousands of blacks migrated up from the south and eventually housing became limited.
- Three new government subsidized housing projects were built -- two for whites and one for blacks.
- The Chicago Housing Authority designed a project exclusively for black residence in hopes it would relieve the housing shortage.
- This project, however, did not help the scarcity of housing nor the racial segregation of the residences within the ghetto.
The Second Ghetto:
- The population of black people in Chicago increased from 278,000 people in 1940 to 813,000 people in 1960.
- From 1945 to 1960 “an unprecedented building boom took place in the country’s suburbs, making possible a massive exodus of middle-class whites from cities like Chicago” (Fleming, 75).
- As more blacks from the south poured into the city, whites moved out of the city. This created racial succession and thus the ghetto expanded and shifted.
- Violence began when the city’s racial geography was altered temporarily by allowing black veterans to house in white projects.
- This resulted in multiple race riots.
- The Irish, Polish, Czech and Italian became buffers between inner-city blacks and well-off suburban whites.
- Businessmen and South Side professionals decided to deal the ghetto with a different approach by clearing all of the slums and rebuilding a “central Chicago and re-attract a ‘solvent’ population downtown” (Fleming, 77).
- Overall plan was to “obtain ‘slum’ land through through purchase or condemnation, write down its cost, and then sell it to private developers who would build residential properties for middle and upper-class customers” (Fleming, 77).
- In 1947 Illinois legislature passed the Blighted Areas Redevelopment and Relocation Act which allowed them to “clear Chicago’s slums and relocate the poor” (Fleming, 77).
- Black were left on their own “in a racially discriminatory environment with no new affordable housing in the area” (Fleming, 78).
- The urban renewal projects only shifted many issues with the black community to a place further in the ghetto and often destroyed more housing than it replaced.
- In the beginning the Chicago Housing commission was “not entirely lamentable” (Fleming, 79). They chose their tenants with care, families that were working-class, and tried to create a cohesive, albeit racially segregated community.
- The 1937 Housing Act caused further isolation concentrating the poor families. The “middle- and working-class families who had traditionally provided the central city with stability, political power, and moral supervision” left for the suburbs, which only worsened the condition for those who did not have the means to leave (Fleming, 79).
- Through various political policies the ghetto was completed and Chicago’s black citizens were contained and isolated around downtown.
- “This segregation, I hope to have shown did not come about accidentally; it was an achievement” (Fleming, 81)
Between 1970-1990 censuses:
- The ghetto became larger
- The number of poor citizens nearly doubled
- The population of African Americans "increased 70 percent" (Fleming, 82)
- The number of single-parent families rose dramatically
- Children in these families were dropping out of school, nearly half of inner- city blacks
- Crime and incarceration rose
- In conclusion, as the ghetto grew the number of inhabitants shrank. Those who were left had little choice to be there and the inner-city became isolated, poor and mostly homogenized.
- Several factors contributed to this turn of events: Chicago Housing Association allowed more “problem’ tenants” into the projects, management and maintenance deteriorated and a loss of local employment opportunities (Fleming, 84).
- In addition to all of this between the 1950’s and 60’s whites basically deserted Chicago for a better, safer life in the suburbs.
- “‘[R]acial residential segregation is the principal structural feature of American society responsible for the perpetuation of urban poverty and…
racial inequality in the United States’” (Fleming, 84).
- In 1970 the "outmigration of higher-income blacks” continued and the ghettos became worse. The families who still lived there were surrounded by people “[…] who were equally poor, unemployed, and unenrolled in school” (Fleming, 85).
The Ghetto as Public Sphere:
- The ghettos of Chicago were probably, “the worst place in the world to raise a family” (Fleming, 88).
- The people in these neighborhoods lacked the resources to engage in civic participation.
- For example, if a single mom raises a family, working two jobs, and has to take care of family affairs, she is going to have little time or patience to engage in local public decision making.
In conclusion formation of the ghetto began through the isolation and concentration of black citizens in Chicago. The rhetorical effect of this was a lack of education, a surplus of single-parent families, overt racism and vicious violence. All of these factors combined to create the ghetto in Chicago. Such homogenization resulted in a lack of diversity which is not conducive to civic participation. The ghetto silences its inhabitants.