I’m black and I’m bowed. “Historically, we sought to escape White America. Currently, we seek to escape Black America,” laments Patricia Johnson-Gordon in the Residents’ Journal (August). “All we have to do is glance at our community in comparison to those with fewer social ills and the differences are immediately noticeable. As a community, our manner of dress, speech, attitude and music are outside of the lines. These mannerisms are fine for the people who make the clothes and the people who make the music because it makes them rich and money can compensate for and solve quite a few problems. But as soon as they become wealthy, the first thing that they do is move out and step inside the lines of a community somewhere else.”

We’re Number 31! According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, in 1998 Illinoisans had the ninth-highest adjusted gross income on federal tax returns but reported charitable donations of just 1.8 percent of that income. That places us 31st–just below the national average of 2 percent and way below the most generous state, Utah, where people give 4.6 percent of their income (nccs.urban.org).

On the bright side, the Catholic Church no longer encourages the faithful to murder dissident writers. Father Robert Barron of Mundelein Seminary deplores “beige, bland Christianity” in U.S. Catholic (October): “Every year, a group of students from the seminary where I teach makes a lengthy pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The sojourn usually coincides with the Muslim penitential month of Ramadan. What strikes these American Catholic seminarians is how unavoidable, vivid, and ‘in your face’ the practice of Ramadan is. Simply to walk outside one’s residence and open one’s eyes and ears is to know that something powerful is going on. Ramadan affects the way the people behave, move, gesture, do business, eat, and celebrate. The rhetorical questions I have posed to my students when they share these impressions are: If a foreign visitor came to largely Catholic Chicago during our penitential season of Lent, would he or she particularly notice anything?…Would you see Lent in people’s faces, bodies, movements? Does it change the way they buy and sell, advertise, eat, and sleep?”

Sure, I got a 20 percent raise–how about you? From “FOMC Alert” (October 3), a publication of the Financial Markets Center: “Speaking at the Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole conference on August 25, Chairman Alan Greenspan noted ‘considerable unease’ among some citizens ‘about the way markets distribute wealth.’ Nevertheless, Greenspan and his colleagues have been served very well by these distributional mechanisms. According to recently released financial disclosure statements, the five members of the Fed’s Board of Governors saw their aggregate net worth jump by 17 to 20 percent during the course of 1999.”

“To remember the struggles of Robert Taylor’s tenants is important, but not at the price of pitying those who have passed through the 4,500 apartments,” writes sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh in his new book on the Robert Taylor Homes, American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto. “There is no community in which ongoing collective labor is not required to ensure livability, though the resources available to communities will differ. In its first three years, Robert Taylor was a success by any definition, in large part because the CHA and tenants had the freedom and resources to meet household needs. The two parties screened applicants rigorously, mixed working and poor families in the high-rises, and drew on the resources of the wider community to support tenants and decrease their sense of isolation. By the mid-1960s, the deluge of impoverished households that came to the Housing Authority seeking shelter made this conscious planning and social engineering unworkable.”