Thank you Common

Sunday, January 20

Dear Common,

I am a 31-year-old white guy who grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. I just want to thank you for writing your memoir because it has given me a perspective on the south side of Chicago that I have always longed to understand. As you describe in the book, Chicago is a very segregated city. My home town is 95% white, but we are 5 minutes from Robbins and Harvey, which are 95% black. There was a lot of fear from the white people toward black people when I was growing up, and I recognized that fear and mistrust from the time I was small.

A few stories... My Irish grandfather lived at 82nd and Ashland in Chicago. He had a black friend through his work as a custodian in a Chicago high school in the 1960's. Every time this black friend came by my grandpa's house around 82nd and Ashland avenue, the man had to wear a tool belt so my grandpa's neighbors would think he was working. He didn't feel safe and my grandpa probably didn't feel safe having a friendship that crossed racial boundaries. I also remember when I was kid, a few black men were doing repairs on our house. A neighbor actually called my mom to ask her if she knew black men were around the house! And I remember a neighbor worrying that there were too many black people in the Jewel. Chicago may not be as bad as South Africa apartheid, but Chicago segregation is serious and real.

I moved to California in part because I feel like Chicago will always be a city haunted by its race relations. I just want to say thank you for writing this book because I always felt like the south side is divided and it has allowed me to see another side that I long to see. The racism is still there, sadly. I truly hope that black kids and white kids and Latino kids and Asian kids can grow up together in peace and share friendship one day. Keep doing what you're doing!

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