To the editor–

I lived in Chicago for 13 years, and your article on Lakeview’s resistance to a women’s shelter in the community [Neighborhood News, February 20] illustrates all too well what’s happened to the city over the last decade or so. As one of the neighborhood “activists” puts it, this isn’t just about “evil little yuppies concerned about…property values.” No, it’s about intolerance, stereotypes, and prejudice–and, in a very real sense, about conquest.

These “urban pioneers” who flock back into the city’s neighborhoods only after the “undesirables” have been safely cleared out do indeed reflect America’s pioneer spirit, but not in the way they might have us believe: as our pioneer ancestors slaughtered and removed indigenous people to make the country safe for takeover, these modern-day seekers of the promised land embrace and promote policies to displace and disenfranchise any and all people who might threaten their sterilized, white-bread vision of urban utopia. (After the neighborhoods have been cleansed, of course, it’s time to revel in urban funk, now that it’s been placed at a safe distance–I wonder how many of these self-styled “citizens” hang out in trendy galleries and bohemian bars to gawk at photographs of the “underclass,” hoot and holler at shot-and-beer poseurs reading at poetry slams, and shake their asses to blues, reggae, and R & B.)

When American cities finally become unlivable, it won’t be due to any stereotyped “underclass” pathologies; it’ll be the soulless arrogance and opportunistic power-grabbing of the rich that will eventually do the trick. They demand permit parking so they can continue with their two-member household, two-to-three-vehicle lifestyle; they speculate in real estate, whine when these activities raise property taxes, and then try to kick out (or buy out) good Christians who still care about the poor who’ve been displaced; they tear down vintage buildings and replace them with cookie-cutter monstrosities; they exude an elitist intolerance that the old-fashioned “white ethnics,” for all their unfortunate bigotry and racial fears, could never have dreamed of; they turn a once-vital (and productive) city into a sanitized playground for money changers.

“Gentry” is too nice a word; “nouveau white trash” comes much closer to the mark.

David Whiteis

Fort Wayne, Indiana