Racism, especially racism against blacks, has raised its ugly head in Evanston for decades. I want to thank Evanston resident Bennett Johnson (former Evanston NAACP President) for pointing out at a City of Evanston meeting that racism in Evanston is “a community problem.”
Sadly, the history of racism in the United States of America has had long lasting effects on the psyches of all Americans. Racism made some ethnic/racial groups feel superior to other ethnic/racial groups, an attitude that legitimized the enslavement of blacks.
At the same time, racism made (makes) many blacks in the United States believe that they did (do) not have the rights given to citizens in the Bill of Rights (the Amendments to the United States Constitution). Many black citizens therefore shy away from exercising those Rights, especially, the First Amendment, which gives citizens freedom of speech.
When a black woman recently told me how disappointed and frustrated she was that black people on her block in Evanston were afraid to sign a petition that addressed a matter that would affect their properties, I was not surprised. “There will always be men struggling to change, and there will always be those who are controlled by the past.” (Ernest J. Gaines, 1933-, African American writer)
There are blacks in Evanston and beyond who maintain one’s place as defined by racism.
Black citizens on the aforementioned block feared (fear) that they and their property would be put at risk for retaliation by the City of Evanston if they signed the petition.
Unfortunately, there are examples of the City retaliating against property owners who did not do what the City wanted them to do. Many years ago, my property was the threatened target of the City after I complained about the actions of the City’s Property Standards Department. Also, I have not forgotten what the City did as far as properties owned by (the late) Betty Paden (African American) after Ms. Paden refused to sell her property on Emerson Street.
I repeat the following quotes:
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything... that smacks of discrimination or slander.” (Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955, African American educator and civil rights leader. Certain Unalienable Rights, “What the Negro Wants,” edited by Rayford W. Logan)
“Freedom is never given; it is won.” (A. Phillip Randolph, 1889-1979. Keynote speech given at the Second National Negro Congress in 1937)
“Many little people in many small places undertaking many modest actions can transform the world.” - African proverb, African Wisdom for Life: compiled by Annetta Miller.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” (Margaret Mead, 1901-1978, American anthropologist)
When speaking about racism in Evanston, I was quoted as saying that it made me feel like I was “in Evanston, Mississippi.” Perhaps, I should have said, “pre-Civil Rights Mississippi.”
The presence/manipulation of blacks by blacks, who assume a Judas role when it comes to instigating/approving decisions/actions that negatively affect/control black folks, exacerbates the manifestation of racism. Shame on the Judases.
“You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. (Leroy Eldridge Cleaver, 1935-1998, African American writer and political activist. Speech given in San Francisco in 1968) So, which are you?