To the editors:
Since the Oct. 5 publication of Jane Juffer’s important look at the seamier underside of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Operation Clean Sweep (appropriately titled “Clean Sweep’s Dirty Secret”), a side which our local media won’t show us, their commitment to class war and power being more pronounced than their commitment to revealing the impacted poverty of the Third Worlds around us and the plans that powerful groups have devised for dealing with it, at least a couple of letters protesting Juffer’s piece have appeared in the Reader. The looniest, however, was Kevin Kitchen’s “Outside Agitators” (Oct. 26). So I’ll confine my response to it.
Recall Juffer’s thesis. What is happening at the Harold Ickes Homes, to the Richmond family in particular, and to the poor residents of public housing across the city, “not only raises a question about the civil liberties of innocent people caught in the cross fire of the war on drugs but also leads to a related question about the nature of Operation Clean Sweep: When does such an operation become less of an effort to make public housing safe for its tenants and more of a convenient way to control a whole community of people, people with every reason to be angry at the system and people for whom eviction could easily mean homelessness?”
Structurally speaking, then, (a) the demography of the ghetto in the United States is designed to fit into the system of established power in a supportive way, mainly as a reserve for containing poor people in one controllable location, and until the land is required by rich people for gentrification, the standard euphemism for Negro removal (etc.). Therefore, (b) within the ghetto itself, the same paradigm prevails, though on a smaller scale. In two words, that general paradigm is population control. And in Chicago today, two of the more ballyhooed examples of population control, of inculcating an authoritarian cast of mind in the subjects, and of ensuring their submissiveness before established power, are the so-called war on drugs and its CHA counterpart, Operation Clean Sweep.
Now let’s turn to Kitchen’s assessment of Jane Juffer’s article. She can’t possibly know what’s what in the projects, Kitchen asserts, because she’s white and lives in a more affluent neighborhood. Worse yet, she’s one of those “outside white agitators,” genetically incapable of doing anything but causing trouble in places where poor, black people live, where there should be peace, harmony, and above all, gratitude.
On the other side, CHA Chairman Vincent Lane, Beverly Shepard, who manages the Harold Ickes Homes, and Chicago Police Supt. LeRoy Martin, who has a hand in implementing the CHA’s sweeps, are not only black but employed by the City, so we can trust everything they tell us. And as for the Richmond family, the protagonists of Juffer’s article, well, you know–Sylvester Richmond himself is a “registered Republican,” one of those damned “Black tokens in the Republican party,” and one of “the few black traitors who are working with the white agitators. . . .” So his word is self-evidently tarnished. And whatever befalls him are his just deserts.
Whereas Jane Juffer wrote a reasonable article on a topic which, to paraphrase her own accurate words, we can’t trust the mainstream media to touch, so geared are they to serving established power; Kevin Kitchen spews venom, and in doing so, defends the very tactics of population control which Juffer had called into question, while racially castigating anybody who would dare doubt the words or motives of people with power or their representatives.
Kitchen’s message was a common one. Don’t defy authority. Don’t resist. And be sure to mind your elders. Your betters.
The world according to established power. No wonder Jane Juffer’s article sounded so odd to so many people. Kitchen’s was the very same message with which the mainstream media have been inundating us, for as long as there’s been a mainstream media.