To the editor:
Harold Henderson hit a lot of nails squarely on the head with his piece on the demolition of public housing in Chicago [“There Goes Their Neighborhood,” May 29]. I’d like, however, to add a few more thoughts:
(1) Several times in the article, references are made to public housing residents who don’t work. Yet a significant number of these residents are women with children. Raising children is, in fact, work–difficult, socially productive work. It should be acknowledged and rewarded as such.
(2) One doesn’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to be impressed with the way in which scattered-site housing, long an anathema to city fathers across America, suddenly became desirable public policy after the Los Angeles Rodney King riots of 1992 reminded the overclass of what can happen when too many angry, impoverished people are allowed to live in close proximity to one another for too long. Apparently the specter of concentrated political power (to say nothing of anger) among poor, disenfranchised black folks is even scarier to America’s power elite than the possibility of one or two of those folks moving in next door.
(3) It won’t do us much good to criticize government for aiding and abetting gentrification unless we also identify for whom government is doing the job–wealthy real estate interests. It’s private profit that drives public policies such as those Henderson describes in his article. As long as homes and communities are profit-generating commodities, the people who live and work in them will be vulnerable to displacement. Government continues to do capital’s bidding.
David G. Whiteis
Harold Henderson replies:
Unfortunately, racism–as well as profit–causes government to let public housing deteriorate and then to tear it down because it’s in such bad shape. I don’t know of any reason to think that racism would wither away even if private profit were outlawed.