IN THE RUST BELT
Can the Ghetto Be Rebuilt?
Come onnn, baby, don't you… want to go? Come onnn, baby, don't you… want to go? Back to that same old place… Sweet Home Chicago
Earnest Gates, as hard-nosed and practical a person as you will ever meet, was walking through the luxurious apartment and deciding whether to buy it when a voice spoke to him.
“What,” the voice asked incredulously, “are you doing?” Here was Gates, who had grown up on the tough Near West Side of Chicago, built a successful trucking business, and now could take his wife and children out of his run-down neighborhood and live pretty much wherever they wanted. And what they wanted could very well be this apartment in the Americana Towers in the fashionable Old Town neighborhood.
But as Earnest Gates admired the fancy features of the rooms, the voice inside his head kept talking. “The neighborhoods are never going to get better as long as people like you continue to move out.”
Then the voice stopped him in his tracks: “You know, you are doing the exact same thing that you criticized other people for doing.”
That did it. Gates knew he had to make a decision. Do I pick up and go, or do I return home and try to bring the neighborhood back? He had an opportunity to escape the inner city and its problems and give his kids an opportunity to grow up in a nice apartment in a comfortable neighborhood. Or he could return to the old haunts, the empty lots and abandoned houses, the liquor stores, elderly people hunkered down in their homes, and the poor kids imprisoned in the Henry Horner public housing project—the one made famous by Alex Kotlowitz's grim book entitled There Are No Children Here. And Gates had no idea what steps someone would take to make such a place thrive.
The brass ring or the fool's errand? The choice was obvious. Throw aside all the common sense that he had used to succeed in his trucking business. Walk out of the luxury apartment and return to the ’hood. Gates followed the