Black/Brown/White Relations: Race Relations in the 1970s

By Charles V. Willie | Go to book overview

11
The "Liberation" of Gary, Indiana

Edward Greer

In silhouette, the skyline of Gary, Indiana, could serve as the perfect emblem of America's industrial might—or its industrial pollution.In the half century since they were built, the great mills of the United States Steel Corporation—once the largest steel complex on earth—have produced more than one-quarter trillion tons of steel.They have also produced one of the highest air-pollution rates on earth. Day and night the tall stacks belch out a ruddy smoke that newcomers to the city find almost intolerable.

Apart from its appalling physical presence, the most striking thing about Gary is the very narrow compass in which the people of the city lead their lives.Three-quarters of the total work force is directly employed by the United States Steel Corporation.About seventy-five percent of all male employment is in durable-goods manufacture and in the wholesale-retail trades, and a majority of this labor force is blue collar. This means that the cultural tone of the city is solidly working class.

But not poor. Most Gary workers own their own homes, and the city's median income is ten percent above the national average [ 1971]. The lives of these people, however, are parochial, circumscribed, on a tight focus.With the exception of the ethnic clubs, the union, and the Catholic church, the outstanding social edifices in Gary are its bars, gambling joints, and whorehouses.

-177-

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