An Example of “Institutional Racism”

by Mr. Sheehy

A most vivid example of this magic occurred with the siting of Interstate 94 and the Robert Taylor Homes (at the time the largest public housing project in U.S. history) in such close proximity. Under the guidance of Chicago’s political leaders, the interstate acted as an artificial barrier to limit the access of the public housing project’s residents to the rest of the city while providing a ribbon of concrete that delivered mobile suburbanites seamlessly through the Black Belt to deposit them for work and play in the Loop. Urban flux, then, remains best understood as a process through which people and institutions with capacity and resources shape the contours [of] urban and suburban settings in manners that artificially advantage some while marginalizing others.

Many white folks insist that black folks’ claims about the existence of institutional racism are a myth or paranoia, but examples like this one, from Mark Mulder’s article in Comment Magazine, show how race has played a role in ways most folks aren’t paying attention to. The entire essay is interesting, particularly as it examines the ways churches were a key part of what led to the downfall of the city. At times the ideas presented strike me as uncharitable toward people who, I believe, honestly want to love others in Christ’s name, but even when they do that, Mulder strikes me as right when he affirms that “congregations tended to either engage or disengage with cities and suburbs in a manner that best fit the preoccupations of attenders.”