Joshua Beal, who was in Chicago for a funeral, was killed Saturday by a Chicago police sergeant. The reason an off-duty police officer felt the need to start waving his gun around and pointing it at a lot of different people is baffling. To see the video, click here.
I, however, don’t want to focus on the killing itself ― I want to focus on the reaction of white people. Specifically in Mount Greenwood, where the incident occurred. Last night, hours after his death, while people gathered to support Josh’s family, some residents of Mount Greenwood came out of their homes with Blue Lives Matter flags to apparently show that Black people are not welcome in Mount Greenwood. Instead of letting people grieve the loss of a life, these white residents thought it appropriate to call them names and tell them to leave “their” neighborhood. To see this video click here.
It would be easy to write that group of flag-waving people off as not representative of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, but unfortunately that neighborhood has a very long history of trying to stay white while keeping Black people out.
It was a common saying for Black Chicagoans who lived in the Morgan Park, Beverly, and Roseland areas in the ‘90s to say, “Don’t go west of Western,” because you would be venturing into Mount Greenwood.
While white Chicago likes to try to cover up our racism, Mount Greenwood has historically been a neighborhood that flaunts racism more openly.
Are all white people in Mount Greenwood blatantly racist? Hopefully not, but because of its past, not being racist in Mount Greenwood is difficult. It is tough to not be racist as a white person in America, period, but some places like Mount Greenwood make it harder than others.
Here is a brief history of Mount Greenwood’s racist past:
In 1968, the Chicago Tribune published an article about how 11 Black elementary students wanted to attend an elementary school in Mount Greenwood. White parents protested the fact that Black students would be going to “their” school.
“I don’t mind them, but I don’t want them living next to me,” said Peggy O’Connor, a waitress and wife of a police officer. “I don’t want to be too close to them. I think they’ve been whining too long, and I’m sick of it.”
Also in 1992, the Chicago Reader wrote about how the residents of Mount Greenwood did not want a new magnet high school built in their community. Some of the reasons that people cited of why they didn’t want students from other schools to come to this new school is because, “you have felons in that school,” referring to the schools in other communities, and they didn’t want “more noisy, littering, grass-stomping students.” The residents perpetuated stereotypes of black people being lazy, criminal, loud and messy.
In 2008, seven of the Black students who had integrated that Mount Greenwood elementary school in 1968 returned for their 40th elementary reunion. They were greeted with a Swastika on the door of the school and people across the street telling them to “go back to your old school.”
In 2010, on a community blog, someone described a scene in which a group of white teenagers on a summer evening started chasing people and yelling, “all sp*cs and ni**ers out of the fu**ing park!”
In 2014 at McNally’s, a bar in Mount Greenwood, a police offIcer could be heard saying, “There are too many Black people in here.”
Also in 2014, racist graffiti was found in six different locations in the area, including the N-word being spray painted onto vehicles.
The reason for this history lesson is because as a white person I know we love to try to pretend that racism does not exist or it is something that is over with. The tragic murder of another Black person by a police officer and the reactions of the community to the death show us once again that racism is alive and well.
The options are simple as white people. We can work to change the system of policing by admitting there is a problem with it. Once we admit the system of policing has a problem, we can then work to fix it. This option would benefit our whole society. People of color wouldn’t need to fear the police, the police would feel safer, and then white people wouldn’t have to hear as much about racism.
The other option is we can get defensive, chant “Blue Lives Matter,” wave the American flag when someone is killed, call Black people names, wear Confederate flag shirts, and just continue the systems that let policing and white supremacy operate unchecked in our city and country.
Clearly by these videos, far too many people are choosing my second option...