Thursday, March 27, 2008


Barack Obama's speech on race has caused many people in America to begin talking about the subject. Most black people talk about race daily. We function every day on whether any experiences we undergo have a racial tinge to them.
We can wonder, was the service at a restaurant just poor, or did we get poor service because we are black? We notice if the waitress treats others the same way we get treated. Then our minds can rest because we see the same poor service is evenly distributed.
I recently had a cop pull me over after I passed his parked car and looked at him. My mind immediately questioned whether he truly pulled me over for speeding or did he do so once he saw I was black-and then decide to say I was speeding? Especially in light of the fact that I didn't get a ticket.
On and on, in the everyday activities of a black person, we wonder in the back and forefront of our minds what race has to do with it.
The biggest question regarding race is how honest we want to be about it. Sadly, every word uttered in a conversation about race between the races in America is subject to the "racism" charge. Recently, during an interview on a radio station, Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white person." That comment immediately caused a lot of flap.
His opponents and many on conservative talk radio jumped on his use of the word "typical." Yet if you think about Barack Obama's experience in growing up in this country, all of his relatives in this country during his entire formative years were white. His cousins, his aunts, his uncles, his nieces and nephews. All are white. And Barack, because of who he is within the family, was able to see things that no child who only visits or is the adopted relative ever truly does.
But I have to wonder why there was such outrage from some in white America over his use of the word "typical"? Who better than Obama, who has one foot in the white world and the other in the black world and has lived the experience, to truly be able to make an observation and label it as "typical."
Barack Obama also didn't have a single blood relative in this entire country who was black until his children were born. Yet white America because Barack Obama is half-black has completely given him over to black America. Why is that? How is it that Barack's black half has more power than his white half? How is it that someone who spent all his formative years with a white mother, white grandparent and around all their white friends can now be criticized for using the term "typical white person"?
Yet at the same time, he is expected to explain or defend black America-a black America he didn't grow up in and only came to be a part of once he was grown. Those same pundits who raged that Obama used the word "typical" don't seem to have a problem posing questions to Obama to explain a community he didn't grow up in. I saw one interview where Obama was asked to explain black patriotism, as if our patriotism is somehow different.
At the same time, I am not seeing anyone questioning why whites are so quick to vilify and deny someone who is one half of them?
Most whites, I suspect, are very uncomfortable with the race conversation because for many of them it will be the first time in their lives that they have to address their own racial being. I remember having a conversation with a co-worker years ago and because I felt comfortable with her, I asked her if she ever thinks about being white. The question kind of stunned her because, as she confessed to me, she didn't.
So I am curious and perhaps my white readers can respond. How often do you think about being white? If you live in a predominantly white area, do you think about how white it is? When you see your children's class picture and it's filled with other white children, do you wonder why there aren't any black children in the picture? Or do you just accept it as being part of "normalcy"?
If we are to honestly explore the racial dynamics of this country, we are all going to have to get thicker skin. Curious questions need to be asked and answered without fear that one party is "racist" while the other is the "victim."
Let the discussions begin!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Property Values Falling - Will Our Property Taxes Fall As Well?

Foreclosures. Properties sitting vacants for months. An over abundance of condominiums on the market. Yet our Mayor calls for people to do a Board of Review appeal rather than a true reassessment of all properties.

For those that don't kow, your tax amounts are set by the Cook County Assessor who gets those rates based on the city council vote for the tax amounts. Once the Assessor asses your properties based on number of bathrooms, fireplace or not, finished basement or not, brick or frame, slab or basement, etc. you are assesed on those features. The only thing you can do with the Assessor is certify the validity of them taxing you for a finished attic when all you have is a crawl space.

Once the taxes are assessed, you can then file a request with the Board of Review to appeal your tax amounts. That is what Daley is calling for. Yet as the price of Chicago properties are falling, shouldn't we all be reassessed downward first?

However, since the current option is to appeal your assessment, I urge people to go do. Every dime we can save is money the city won't waste.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Our Children Problems Begin at Home

The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. That's one of the first things that came to mind after hearing of the latest killings of young black children by other young black children on the West Side over the past couple of weeks. From the murder of Kadeidrah Lynn Marsh to the murder of Ruben Ivy, there must be something wrong in the families of the individuals who murdered them.
How many of us can look at our blocks, neighbors and friends and see in their children the makings of a future criminal? How many of us know uncontrollable children being raised by out-of-control or unconcerned adults? How many of us are shocked when certain young people end up on the wrong side of the law-especially when we watched them grow up being the "bad kid on the block"?
Yet even though it is the easiest thing in the world to blame the families, we must, as a neighborhood and community, step up to the plate regarding our involvement or lack thereof in the lives of those children who end up being the local neighborhood terrorist. When we sit on our buns and don't do a damn thing, we are just as much to blame as the child who pulls the trigger.
I remember several years ago being at the park and having some smart-mouth young boys give me grief. It was almost 9 p.m. and they were still outside, as if they didn't have a care in the world. What one of the boys didn't know is that I knew his grandmother. I knew her to be a religious woman who didn't take a lot of nonsense. Yet here it was late at night and her grandson was out at a time when I felt he should have been home. When I mentioned my encounter with her grandson, she was appreciative to hear about his behavior. Yet in the back of my mind, I wondered why in the world would she have permitted him to be out so late?
How many people are open to hearing that they need to get a grip on their children and grandchildren? Most of us don't want to hear or be criticized for the method and manner in which we raise our children. My friend did listen to what I said about her grandson, but it was a slippery slope. One misstep in what I was saying could lead her from nodding in agreement to defending her child and telling me off for not "minding my own business."
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we have good people trying to raise children, but they are at the same time tired and overwhelmed. As a community, we have for far too long accepted the "single mama" or "grandmother" raising-of-children concept.
At the same time, we have accepted the irresponsibility of men who father children and don't stick around to raise them. We are failing to acknowledge how much the world has changed and the difficulty and exhaustion caused by raising children in the 21st century. Whereas there was a time when we could, by words alone, instill "the fear of God" in our children, society has now done its part to tell our children if we whip them or threaten to whip them, they can call DCFS and be protected.
A few weeks back, I wrote about our state legislators patting themselves on the back for instituting "a moment of silence" in school. At that time, I wrote we needed a corresponding and mandatory class called "the consequences of your actions." The recent murders show that our young people are acting without thinking. Then their parent will claim their child is a "good child." But that "good child" didn't think. They didn't pause for one second and say to themselves, "If I shoot and kill this other person, I will go to jail. I will get locked up and be a murderer. I will cause grief to my family and to the family of the person I killed." Becoming "scared" after the fact doesn't change the reality that the young person is now a murderer. Praying to God once they have done their dirty deed isn't the same as praying to God before they act and asking him to show them a different path.
If we, as parents, are to be successful, we need to begin to reiterate to our children that they must "THINK!" They must know and acknowledge that for every action, there is a reaction. If you touch a hot stove, you will get burned. If you shoot and kill someone, you will go to jail and possibly the electric chair. Illinois currently only has a moratorium on the death penalty. We haven't abolished it.

Cook County Tax Increase

made a huge pot of Chili a couple of weeks ago. Most people like saltines with their chili. I like Ritz Crackers. But I can't afford Ritz Crackers. So for as long as I can remember, I've been buying Ritz-type snack crackers at Aldi's. And for as long as I can remember, those crackers cost me 99 cents a box.
So imagine my shock when I went into Aldi's and their version of Ritz Crackers was now $1.39. That's 40 cents more than I had expected pay. Percentage-wise that's close to a 50-percent increase in price. I was shocked. If one box of crackers can now be so much more, what happens if everything we buy is now that much more?
I began checking with others who shop at Aldi's. Like me, they all remember the crackers being 99 cents. One person did mention $1.29, but 99 cents has been ingrained in people's minds for so long, it's the amount that comes to most folk's minds right away.
As I began to talk with different people about the price of food, one thing became perfectly clear. We can hear different economists argue over whether this country is in a recession or not, but food prices are going sky high, and being able to eat is going to get harder for most people.
With gas hovering over $3 a gallon and many economists claiming the price may rise to $4 a gallon by June, then our food prices will increase to make up the added cost of getting that food to market. As our energy prices rise, so will everything else.
If memories of going to the gas station and buying $2 worth of gas are fading, so will the memory of being able to go to the store and buy milk and cereal for $5.
As we struggle to handle paying higher and higher food prices, we now must contend with the Cook County board increasing our sales taxes-especially when everything else is rising in cost.
I have decided to protest by spending as little money as humanly possible in Cook County. I already combine my trips so that my gas purchases are always outside of the City of Chicago. Now I will have to make sure my food, clothing and everything else is done outside Cook County. For those of us on the West Side, it may mean traveling to Elmhurst, Schaumburg or Oak Brook. But when making a major purchase, the savings can be tremendous.
The only ones who will truly have to pay the new taxes are the poor who don't have a car to travel outside of the county to shop. These are the same folks the Cook County board tries to claim they are helping. But in reality, they have instituted a plan that will, in the long run, hurt the ones who least can afford it.
When re-election time comes, let us remember those who voted to hurt our pocketbooks the most, while claiming they increased the taxes to help us.