Us People, Them People: Howard Street and the $15 Sandwich

“It’s just such a relief that people of quality are coming to the neighborhood,” a woman sighed to me at my coffee shop. “I never thought I’d see a BMW parking on Howard. My property value must be going up!”

This woman, who I will call Kim, is a neighbor of mine. One of the few actual property owners in my neighborhood, Rogers Park/South Evanston, she owns a condo on the lake at Juneway Terrace, a posh residential development on a block that used to be sneeringly referred to as “The Jungle” by people farther up the North Shore. She is speaking, of course, about two new restaurants on the Evanston side of Howard, Ward 8 and Peckish Pig. Both of these restaurants are a couple blocks from my house. They both advertise “New American” menus with farm-to-table ingredients, cocktails that are barely 6 oz, craft beers, etc. Since they have opened, many people immediately ask me what I think about these restaurants and “how nice it is to finally have some place to go around there.” Many of the comments people make about Howard street these days sound a lot like Kim’s; it’s hard to put a finger on why it makes your stomach wrench. Is it offensive? Kinda racist? Classist? Am I supposed to be agreeing that this is a good thing? Should I print t-shirts that say Saving Howard, One $18 Cheese Plate at a Time?

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A $12 beverage at Ward 8, primarily consisting of a gigantic fucking piece of ice. Photo via wardeight.com

Initially I didn’t know how to respond to her comment. My face flushed and I pressed my lips together and all I could think to say was, “Well, I live around here. And I grew up here, so…”

Instead of reading that I was offended, Kim took this as an open door. “Oh, so then you must know what I mean,” she breathed confidentially, leaning in as if to commiserate with a fellow Reasonable White Person in Rogers Park. Not really, I murmured, and winced a smile as I handed her a cappuccino.

First let me say that I have nothing against new businesses opening along Howard. In fact, I welcome them and patronize many of the stores. I know the owners of these two restaurants personally. I went to elementary school with one of their daughters. I make them shots of espresso multiple times a day. I sincerely want them to succeed, because they are good people and I have known them to be solid, ethical business owners. So, why is it that every time I pass their storefront, I feel irritated…almost angry? It wasn’t until Kim said this to me that I realized the reason these establishments make me uncomfortable is because, as an actual member of this neighborhood, I feel completely unwelcome in these restaurants because they weren’t made for me, or for anyone else who actually lives here.

Imagine my dismay when I took my boyfriend to try out Ward 8 for our monthly dinner date and opened the menu to see a fifteen dollar sandwich. Working an hourly wage, my general rule is if a sandwich costs more than an hour on my feet dealing with other people’s shit, then that sandwich is too damn expensive. A fifteen dollar sandwich sends a message in this neighborhood, and that message is we don’t want you here. Peckish Pig is slightly more affordable…slightly.  All entree dishes and cocktails are over $10. Although I’ve got to hand it to them, they seem to be taking the temperature of the community and responding. Recently they have started featuring more affordable specials, and have begun hosting community events on Mondays. Ward 8 could definitely take a tip from them.

However, at Ward 8 you don’t have to wait until you open the menu to feel unwelcome. Right next to the door of Ward 8, there is a sign that reads: “NO SHOUTING. NO FIGHTING. PLEASE REMOVE ALL BASEBALL CAPS.”

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Today I posted a photo of this sign on my Facebook and said, “Dear Ward 8, this is racist as hell.” The response I got, from people who live in the neighborhood and from people who don’t, was varied.

Sorry, I don’t see any intentional racism here. I understand how this could be construed as a racist message though.

Wearing baseball caps in a restaurant is pretty much a sign of having no class regardless of race and has traditionally been frowned upon by fancy establishments.

In that neighborhood…you gotta be cautious. How is this racist?

I understand you, but I don’t think it is. Its only racist if ALL black people (assuming that you mean racist against black people) shouted, fought, and wore baseball caps. Its more classist, but we know those overlap too. I get it though, pretty much could be seen as implying that much.

In order to understand why this sign is problematic, you need a little lesson on Howard Street, Rogers Park, Evanston, and the literal racial divide on Howard. You also need to know that these restaurants were heavily subsidized by the City of Evanston.

Wait, what? That’s right. My taxes are paying for bars that I and other members of this neighborhood can’t even afford to patronize. Read on.

Demographic "racial dot map" via Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Demographic “racial dot map” via Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

This graphic is a “racial dot map” made by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service based at the University of Virginia. They use census information to make a striking visual of the racial makeup of the entire country. Each dot represents one person: blue dots=white people, green dots=African American people, red dots=Asian people, orange dots=Latin@s, and brown dots=other ethnicity. I’ve zoomed in here on Howard street, which is an east-west street just below the center of the image. It should pop right out to you……because there is an obvious wall of sparse blue dots (white home-owners) bumping up against a dense area of green dots (African American rental tenants). There is a literal racial line in the sand.

Howard Street is the northernmost border of Chicago, and the southernmost border of Evanston. Like most urban borders, Howard is unfortunately blighted with a lot of crime with a sharp increase in homicide this year. And again, like most urban borders, both Evanston and Chicago bicker over who is responsible for Howard Street like divorced parents fling blame at each other over their problem child. Recently, when I was speaking to Alderman Joe Moore at a community event, he kept emphasizing that I lived on the Evanston side of Howard, as if this should answer my questions. Infuriated, I said, “Well that’s just it, isn’t it? Everyone wishes Howard Street was someone else’s problem.” When you walk down Howard, it is glaringly obvious which side of the street is the Evanston side and which is the Chicago side. The Evanston side has planters on every corner, decently maintained apartment buildings, a bakery, a police outpost, a laundromat. The Chicago side has a Popeye’s Fried Chicken, a Buffalo Joe’s, and convenience markets that sell little more than chips and candy. Are you getting the picture here?

It’s ironically fitting that I now live on Howard with my partner, because growing up in a joint-custody family with one parent in Evanston and one parent in Rogers Park, I experienced a kind of bizarre dual-citizenship of these neighborhoods. As I’ve grown older, I’ve accepted both of these places as my home, but because I moved in with one parent when I was twelve and spent most of my formative years in Rogers Park, I usually identify as a Rogers Parker. But it’s kind of funny, because now when people ask me where I live, my response is very similar to when I was a child: I kinda live in Evanston, and Rogers Park, too. I live on the Evanston side of Howard, next to these new sparkling restaurants filled almost exclusively with upper/middle-class white people.

Instead of integrating into the neighborhood and creating a space where people who actually live here could afford to go enjoy a drink, these prohibitively expensive restaurants only put the racial divide along Howard into dramatic relief. When I visited Ward 8, the diners there clearly exuded an air of purpose, an edgy sense of urban adventure. Here were the good kindly people of Evanston, stoically bringing their business to Howard Street.

This is especially put into contrast because right across the street from Ward 8 is Tally-Ho, a bar that caters to a mostly African American middle-aged crowd. They have a sign on the door that says you have to be 30+ to enter, but I am 26 and have never been prohibited from entering the bar. It’s a calm, chill hang that occasionally gets rambunctious… with dancing and laughter, that is. This is where we come to the problem of the sign. “NO SHOUTING,” when African American voices are often read by white people as “loud” and “hostile.” (I’m not making this up; I have observed my African American friends, particularly male friends, be asked to “tone it down” or “calm down” frequently, when they are simply, um, talking. And not to mention the very serious problem among white liberals of tone policing.) The “NO FIGHTING” point seems almost laughably condescending. Like, of course no fighting, assholes. Isn’t this a given in polite company? Why are you immediately assuming that someone walking in your door is loud, hostile, and wearing a baseball cap? 

When you wrote this sign to this imaginary person who might walk into your establishment, what did that person look like? I think I might have an idea. And I’m pretty sure you were writing to some caricature of the people around you. When you glance at Ward 8, and read that sign, and then scan your eyes across the street to Tally-Ho, the message is pretty clear: This is our side of the street. You stay on yours. 

Well, when I was there a patron of Tally-Ho did cross the street to come see if Ward 8 was hiring bar-backs. “Excuse me,” he asked multiple Ward 8 patrons in a comfortable, neighborly manner, and was ignored. He sidled up to the bar, and the body language of multiple patrons was very uncomfortable. Finally, he got the bartender’s attention and asked his question. Immediately, the bartender’s face became a wall. No, we’re not hiring right now.

Us people, them people.

During our entire meal I felt uncomfortable, and didn’t know why. It wasn’t until later that I realized the icky feeling in my stomach was coming from the realization that these people thought they were improving my neighborhood simply by showing up, parking their BMW’s, spending their money with their own people (I’m talking about class as well as color), and then leaving. My ire was raised even higher when I learned that Evanston City Council donated thousands of TIF dollars in subsidies for Ward 8 to open on Howard.  Peckish Pig also got a nice slice of the TIF pie. If you don’t know what TIF money is, TIFs are basically pools of money taken from property taxes that are used for community growth. This kind of money is usually earmarked for projects like renovating neighborhood schools and parks. But in Sweet Home Chicago there has been a huge problem of TIFs being used inappropriately…one huge example being mayor Rahm Emmanuel claiming that there is an education deficit and closing scores of schools while forking over TIF money to DePaul for a new basketball arena. There’s a disgusting trend of mayors passing out TIF money to line the pockets of their friends. So, you can imagine how angered I felt to learn that the tax dollars of hard-up South-Evanstonians were donated to open a couple of bars that all but exclude the people who actually live here.

I understand that nobody wants to believe that they’re a racist. I’m sure that if anyone who regularly patronizes Ward 8 or Peckish Pig reads this, they will immediately be on the defensive, and my goal isn’t to attack anyone. I’m not trying to smear the owners of Ward 8 or Peckish Pig, because this issue is so much broader than that, and bigger than individuals. The racism in Rogers Park is an insidious, systemic breed that is not often participated in by single individuals, but absolutely is experienced on an individual level. Do I believe the owners of these places are racist? No. Do I believe they are participating in a racist dynamic? Yes. I’m trying to present a dynamic that has been here for decades. Paint you a picture. When neighborhood after neighborhood in Chicago is aggressively gentrified, we can no longer view racism outside of shifts in our political economy that fundamentally change how racism is experienced in these neighborhoods. I mean, think about it: why would anyone say there’s “finally some place to go here” when Tally-Ho has been on Howard for more than twenty years? When there are numerous ethnic restaurants up and down the street? Think about it: what are they actually saying? 

Why does the presence of posh whites who can afford to spend $13 on four ounces of liquor suddenly validate the existence of my block? Even more, why have people decided that the presence of these middle and upper-middle class whites is saving Howard Street? What exactly are these restaurants doing for my community, other than shutting us out? And especially considering that the doors to these establishments were opened with tax money specifically earmarked for community development: what does that tell us about our definition of that? Or what we see as community? I don’t know about you, but my definition of “community development” goes a little deeper than opening private businesses to collect profit.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can tell you what I wish I had told Kim: I’m sorry that you believe that the people who live here, work here, play here, and grew up here were bogging down the value of your lakefront property. Because let’s be real, sweetheart: it’s not that you believe that Ward 8 and Peckish Pig are some kind of a solution. What you really believe is that the people around you are a problem that must be dealt with.

Oh, and Ward 8? Get out of here with that racist as hell sign.

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35 thoughts on “Us People, Them People: Howard Street and the $15 Sandwich

  1. I like Ward 8, and I’ve met one of the owners in other contexts and they seem very nice, and I have a soft spot for people who work in the service industry and are able to open their own place, but I agree completely about that sign (and their pricing).

    I’ve always found the Tally-Ho sign pretty obnoxious too, though. The fact that it’s apparently not enforced doesn’t really make it less obnoxious.

    A few months ago there was a poster put up by some neighborhood association or SSA, I think on the side of a newspaper box or a trash can or something, right outside the Howard Red Line station with the headline “The New Face of Howard Street” and a big picture of a young white hipster-y woman. I did a double-take when I saw that—what a “fuck you” to everyone who lives there and doesn’t fit that demographic.

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  2. I am ashamed and appalled that Evanston would use money taken from property taxes to help build these restaurants. The real question now is….what can Evanstonians (and those from the surrounding area) do to stop things like this from happening again?

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    • I don’t necessarily want to “stop this from happening again.” Using TIFs to help small businesses is nothing new. However, if they are using tax money to open their doors, then they need to be really active and vocal about how they are bringing that money back to the community, and show what they are doing for the community that gave them that money…..and it needs to be more than just bringing a few rich people into town for dinner

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your words felt like they came straight out of my heart. I to grew up in the Edgewater/ Rogers Park neighborhoods. I was basically priced out of Edgewater and bought a Condo in Rogers Park. for the past 5 years I have felt that like I’m being pushed out of my neighborhood yet again. But I’m digging in my heels and will not be moved again!

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  4. I grew up in Evanston, spent some time on Howard on BOTH sides of the street during the late 60’s-late 70’s. As a Geography major, I find this article rather well thought out. I only wish the author (and so many of our society) would use NOT use the term “racist” when what they really mean to connote is “bigoted”. There is a difference. Other than that, nice article!

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  5. I’m going to ‘call out’ the author of this blog post on their total BS. First of all a business has the right to make whatever reasonable rules they want for those that want to partake in their establishment. If you don’t like them, don’t patronize the place. Secondly don’t complain about the prices on the menu. You could have done what most people do and check out the menu online that way you wouldn’t be surprised at the prices, or that they don’t cater to vegetarians and those that like to request ‘gluten free’ items when they don’t have Celiac Disease. If the market will bare $15 sandwiches and $10 cocktails than so be it. They aren’t required to have a ‘value menu’ to accommodate people of less affluence. Thirdly if this sign was on a business in lets say the mostly black West or South Side of Chicago, or maybe the mostly Hispanic Pilsen/Little Village neighborhoods I guess it wouldn’t be considered ‘racist’. What about the clubs in the North/South/West Loop areas that charge $25 covers and don’t permit people to enter if they are under 23 years old, are wearing gym shoes, hats, and athletic/sports wear? Are those clubs racist or are they just trying to avoid having to deal with intoxicated frat boys and morons who weren’t taught how to act in public by their parents? Personally I don’t want to enjoy food and drink where people are shouting, fighting or acting like fools. From what I remember that storefront was vacant for a while and Evanston offered the incentives as a way to attract someone willing to take a risk and come up with a plan to open a business in an otherwise vacant space. I also can’t afford a Cadillac and GM receives abundant tax breaks but they aren’t required to sell vehicles at a loss so that everyone can drive one. I’ve been to Ward 8 several times and the crowd was made up of all colors shapes and sizes. I’d probably bet I was the poorest person in the joint. Oh one other thing, the proper way to serve Scotch is a 4-6 ounce pour with ice and a tiny bit of water added.

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  6. You complain that these restaurants “weren’t made for me, or for anyone else who actually lives here.” As a long-time Rogers Park homeowner (and third-generation Chicagoan), I take offense at your apparent conviction that you speak for all of us. You don’t.

    It’s one thing to be against racism. It’s another to casually label as racist – on the basis of subjective interpretation of specious evidence – people that you don’t know. I have been to Ward Eight many times and am well acquainted with the owners, one of whom is White. They are not racist people and they are not operating a racist business. Your casual suggestion that they are is unfair and hurtful.

    You describe a scene where a guy walks into the bar during what is presumably busy business hours looking for a job, only to be told no. You conclude this means the person behind the bar is a racist. What if, in reality, the bar is not hiring? (This is in fact the case – they’ve had the same small handful of workers since they started.) Why would you be so quick to label a person a racist based on this kind of evidence?

    The sign you seem to believe constitutes a “smoking gun” is flimsy proof at best. Since when did wearing baseball caps become a Black thing? That idea is just silly.

    In fact, once one looks past the outrage and self-righteousness, one can see that your column is full of racial stereotypes. To make your point about the racial divide in the neighborhood, you mention a Popeye’s chicken place and Buffalo Joe’s on one side of the street and ask the reader “Are you getting the picture?” Well, what picture do you mean? The one where you stereotype African Americans as fried chicken eaters? The one where you assume a sign asking people not to fight is directed at Blacks?

    Your argument that these restaurants are “classist” is equally unreasonable. Your apparent belief that by serving an expensive meal a restaurant is saying “We don’t want you here” is idiotic. If you don’t want to spend your money on the sandwich, then don’t. I have lived in Rogers Park for many years and I am fine with going out for a nice meal and a drink occasionally. If I don’t want to spend the money, I don’t go out. There are lots of people living in Rogers Park and south Evanston who have for many years taken their money out of the neighborhood when they wanted something special; now they don’t have to. I don’t see the problem with that, and I don’t see it as “classist.” Is a fancy restaurant guilty of discrimination against people with less money? Hmmm. That would seem to cheapen the whole notion of discrimination. You should try to avoid using words carelessly. To call every person who slights you a “fascist” is a disservice to those who have been victimized by actual fascists. The same goes with other labels.

    Racism is pervasive and institutionalized and it is and always has been one of the most important social issues in this country. You are not adding anything helpful to the discussion, but rather merely fanning the flames. It is racist to assume that people of color are either too poor or too ignorant to be interested in fancy food and cocktails. It is racist to believe that because Whites are not the majority in the neighborhood that any business with a majority White clientele must be inherently racist. (It’s interesting that you talk about “your” coffee shop. The clientele of the fancy coffee shops in Rogers Park does not, in my extensive experience, reflect the racial makeup of the community. Does this make these establishments also racist?)

    There are lots of serious problems in this city and this country and this world to direct your outrage and righteous indignation at. Why would you choose to throw your verbal darts at two small, struggling, locally-owned businesses?

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    • If you think I was attacking the business owners and pointing fingers at specific individuals as racist, then you completely miss the point. In fact, I mention multiple times in this article that I’m not smearing the owners, and that I want their businesses to succeed. What I’m trying to illustrate is a dynamic on a block that has decades of history. If you are on this block, you are participating in that dynamic. Period. I participate in it. People walking to the laundromat participate in it. And these restaurants participate in it. What you call “subjective interpretation” and “specious evidence,” I call context. Did I use a sign as “evidence?” No, I used the sign as a focal point to facilitate a discussion. I’m not trying to “prove” anything with the sign. I’m talking about why I think it’s problematic. Totally different story. Do I think they are running a racist business? No. Do I think that they are participating in a racist and classist dynamic? Absolutely.

      You seem to be making the argument that I shouldn’t imply that the owners of these restaurants are racists (I didn’t), because I don’t know them. On that same coin, how can you imply that I’m racist if you don’t know me? 😉 However, when I talked about Buffalo Joes and Popeyes, I was simply describing my block. You can look it up on Google satellite if you want, but you claim to be a member of the community, so I trust you can walk over there and look for yourself. What I was pointing out is a fact that is well known: in impoverished areas, there is an abundance of cheap fast food and candy. I am a white person. I will be the first person to tell you that the way I speak about race is far from perfect. But if all you got from my article is that I’m calling black people “fried chicken eaters” and claiming that they don’t deserve or like nice things, you have completely missed the point.

      Do I think fancy restaurants are classist? I mean, sure. But what is particularly classist about this situation is that these “struggling businesses” used local tax money earmarked for community development to open. What does that tell us about our definition of “community development?” Shit, what does it tell us about our definition of “community?” And who is invited to that table, and who isn’t? The other major point I’m making is the way people talk about these restaurants. Yes, there are fancy coffee shops in Rogers Park. There’s also Cafe Sol, on Howard, doing an awesome job of providing a safe, cool space for people to hang out, work, and enjoy the neighborhood. Are they all-inclusive? Probably not. But they strike me as being so. They are the perfect example of more businesses I’d like to see all along Howard. And yet, no one is talking about Sol like it’s saving the neighborhood. People talk about these restaurants as shining beacons of light for the community. But what exactly are they doing for folks on Howard, except bringing a few rich pretty people in for a few hours? I would sincerely like to know how they are bringing that tax money back to the table for the community.

      You say that there are serious problems in this city and county for me to direct my outrage at. (Because nothing says “outrage” like a researched 2,000 word essay.) I believe that deconstructing racism starts at home. I can get mad at what’s happening across the country because I see it here. You are right, “Racism is pervasive and institutionalized and it is and always has been one of the most important social issues in this country.” Then my question to you is, why are you so threatened to talk about it? I doubt the 4,000+ people who have read and shared this page in the last 24 hours agree with you that I have little to say.

      PS: My coffee shop isn’t in Rogers Park, or Evanston 🙂

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      • You say I called you a racist. But I did not – I merely pointed out some things you did (wrote) that I think are racist. It’s interesting that you understood this to mean I was calling you a racist. Yet you seem to believe that your doing precisely the same thing to the bar owners in question should by no means be construed as you saying that they are racist. (I have seen enough here not to expect you to recognize or admit this.)

        Your claim that the clientele of these two restaurants are not local residents is simply that: an unsubstantiated claim. Having apparently spent more time in these places than you, my impression is that a good number of them, maybe most, are indeed local.

        You ask, How will these people in these bars benefit the community? Have you heard of taxes? In Evanston, the tax rate on liquor is roughly 15%. For every dollar spent in these places, 15 cents goes to the city, which can then use that money for whatever its citizens feels is important. This is how taxes work.

        I agree with your concerns about TIF programs in general. However, in this case the city of Evanston awarded these funds for reasons of clear self-interest. A street of empty storefronts pays no taxes (and given Evanston’s famously high liquor taxes, bars are especially attractive) and tends to bring down property values and attract crime, which costs a lot of money to deal with. I imagine the money Evanston is investing in Howard Street development will pay off handsomely. That is to say, the city didn’t provide assistance to these businesses so they’d give space for community meetings, they provided assistance so they can get tax dollars from those businesses (and any new businesses that might subsequently be attracted to the area due to the increased traffic) for many years to come. And they might see higher property values in the area as well, which also raises tax income. The initial investment could pay off many times over. Those new tax dollars can then be spent where needed. That is the social benefit of this TIF project, which unlike many TIF projects is, I think, clearly a win-win.

        Sadly, however, another outcome of your article here – which you are clearly delighted to see going “viral” – is that while you hide behind internet anonymity, the business owners will have to face the consequences of your efforts to slander them. I would not be surprised if they decided to close up and do business elsewhere. Businesses live and die based on their reputations, and bad press can rather quickly kill them. In which case Howard Street can go back to being empty storefronts, and you can write about how terribly racist that is.

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      • Correction: the liquor tax in Evanston is 6%, on top of the other taxes, which adds up to about 15%. Most other nearby municipalities (Chicago, e.g.) have no such tax.

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  7. I am willing to bet the people arguing that these things AREN’T even latent racism, most definitely AREN’T people with black or brown skin. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I know what the words of someone who’s enjoyed the benefits of being white sound like…

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  8. Great article. You wonder why people will spend so much time and mental energy balking at the very suggestion that latent racism/classism exist…. sort of suggests it does.

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  9. White girl goes into fancy bar and can’t afford the $15 sandwich. So she feels Discriminated Against! And now she knows how the People of Color feel, because she can Relate! Then she sees a Person of Color not being offered a job and realizes it’s because of Obviously Racist Behavior! She goes to the bar across the street and the People of Color don’t treat her badly, which only goes to show! And now she has Street Cred, ’cause she hangs out at bars with People of Color! But what to do about that other place? Worry not, White girl will wield her mighty pen and set things aright! Because what the People of Color in this country need more than anything right now is another White Savior!

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    • Have you heard of the term “ally?” Allies have been a necessary component of every major civil rights movement of our time. In your world, white people go on their merry way, pretending that systemic racism has nothing to do with them. In your world, perhaps they continue being part of the problem by negating that racism exists in 2014. After all, we elected a black president! Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry have their own shows! We made it! Right? No. I don’t live in your world, nor do I want to. It’s a fantasy to believe that POC can and WANT to right all of history’s wrongs alone. Any truly radical thinker and leader will acknowledge this and embrace any and all ethical voices.

      The last thing people of color really need are “leaders” in our communities who continue to benefit from the legacy of white supremacy and who enact political and economic violence on their own people (insert name of most POC elected officials here). A reflexive white WOMAN is a welcome addition to any coalition I build. You know why? Because racism is HER problem too, not just mine.

      A final note – the author of this post is not a girl. Perhaps her next blog entry can discuss sexism and the rhetorical devices men of all colors use in an attempt to minimize the non-male voice.

      – Lous Latina Ally

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    • Have you heard of the term “ally?” Allies have been a necessary component of every major civil rights movement of our time. In your world, white people go on their merry way, pretending that systemic racism has nothing to do with them. In your world, perhaps they continue being part of the problem by negating that racism exists in 2014. After all, we elected a black president! Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry have their own shows! We made it! Right? No. I don’t live in your world, nor do I want to. It’s a fantasy to believe that POC can and WANT to right all of history’s wrongs alone. Any truly radical thinker and leader will acknowledge this and embrace any and all ethical voices.

      The last thing people of color really need are “leaders” in our communities who continue to benefit from the legacy of white supremacy and who enact political and economic violence on their own people (insert name of most POC elected officials here). A reflexive white WOMAN is a welcome addition to any coalition I build. You know why? Because racism is HER problem too, not just mine.

      A final note – the author of this post is not a girl. She is a grown woman. Perhaps her next blog entry can discuss sexism and the rhetorical devices men of all colors use in an attempt to minimize the non-male voice.

      – Loud Latina Ally

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  10. Awesome post. Thoughtful and true. Ward 8, and places like it, should remove those kinda signs. It’s never been a secret to anyone that considers race or class that these public signs are problematic at best, but thanks for airing it out a bit.

    Now if that kinda shit popped up in say, Wilmette, I’d just ROFL.

    Anyway. *claps*

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  11. This article engages in what is ironically called “liberal racism”: the notion that when a business posts a sign asking for minimum dress standards and a decent level of behavioral decorum that it automatically assumes they are speaking of blacks, or minorities in general. Since when did black people have a monopoly on baseball caps, shouting, or other unacceptable behavior? Are there not black, hispanic and people of other backgrounds who dress presentably and behave themselves in restaurants? There are establishments in the heart of Wrigleyville, a predominantly white, upper-middle class neighborhood, that post the same requirements. And some of those establishments are not necessarily high-end. In Wrigleyville it is done because of the constant stream of inebriated WHITE frat boys who cause problems for some of the local businesses that are not necessarily sports bars nor built to cater to such crowds.

    These restaurants owners are risking their personal fortunes to establish business in spaces that would otherwise be vacant. They have every right to attempt to create a quiet, comfortable dining atmosphere for their customers and employees.

    Here’s what doesn’t sit well with me. Instead of assuming some dubious motives for why they posted such a sign in their window, instead you should perhaps do some assessment as to why they feel compelled to do so. I’m certain that these business owners do not wish to offend anyone. You must confront the harsh reality that many businesses in the Howard corridor have been harmed, ruined or repelled because of the ongoing behavior of groups of people who enter their establishments and behave in unacceptable ways. It is completely irrelevant as to the skin color of such people. Behavior is behavior. It is not a mere generalization to ascertain that this has been a headache for business owners in the neighborhood. Instead of throwing the classist/racist/bigoted term at the business owners (or their customer base), maybe we should come up with a solution to combat the problem of crime and unruly behavior that plagues the Howard corridor. Coming down on businesses and their customers, and criticizing them for demanding that their customers behave is not a solution.

    And I’ve read your responses to some of the people above. Your are backpedaling on your criticism of these businesses. You all but skewered their menu and drink pricing, not to mention chiding them for marketing to a higher-end customer base. And I am more than certain that the businesses that you named in your article would agree with me.

    To your point, I would hope that other investors do come in open establishments that cater to people other than those looking for $15 sandwiches. If there is a profitable business model for such places, I’m sure someone will find it and execute it.

    But I’m sorry to say your article solves nothing and only serves as a screed against the fact that a business has not come in to meet your demographic demands. Hopefully one will. But until then, you’re going after the wrong problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I, for one, am quite happy Ward Eight has a sign that says No Fighting and No Yelling. On one of my weekly visits to that bar that I have come to love so much, a drunk White man began screaming at a friend of mine that she was the C-word. And, well, that clearly goes against the type of establishment they are trying to run there. They promptly kicked him out.

    But that couldn’t possibly be what the sign was intended to do … They couldn’t possibly be just trying to keep the establishment classy according to you.

    Also – I think if you go to a Cubs game in Wrigleyville you will notice that not only black people wear baseball caps. It’s a bit racist of you to say that’s a black thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sorry, but–“No fighting?” The condescension drips from the rule. Do you imagine a group of bar patrons reading the sign and turning away because they’d planned to fight in the bar that evening?

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  14. THave you heard of the term “ally?” Allies have been a necessary component of every major civil rights movement of our time. In your world, white people go on their merry way, pretending that systemic racism has nothing to do with them. In your world, perhaps they continue being part of the problem by negating that racism exists in 2014. After all, we elected a black president! Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry have their own shows! We made it! Right? No. I don’t live in your world, nor do I want to. It’s a fantasy to believe that POC can and WANT to right all of history’s wrongs alone. Any truly radical thinker and leader will acknowledge this and embrace any and all ethical voices.

    The last thing people of color really need are “leaders” in our communities who continue to benefit from the legacy of white supremacy and who enact political and economic violence on their own people (insert name of most POC elected officials here). A reflexive white WOMAN is a welcome addition to any coalition I build. You know why? Because racism is HER problem too, not just mine.

    A final note – the author of this post is not a girl. Perhaps her next blog entry can discuss sexism and the rhetorical devices men of all colors use in an attempt to minimize the non-male voice.

    – Loud Latina Ally.

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  15. You have a sample size of one visit to Ward and you aren’t a regular at Ward Eight. Now you’re calling their behavior racist. Man, I’m glad to see you don’t work at Sol Cafe because I would definitely stop patronizing them from this.

    You aren’t a voice of this community. You are probably a voice for a segment of it, but this area is extremely diverse and has many demands. For a long time, the only bars were Rolands (which was previously some other sports bar I can’t remember) and Tally Ho. Clearly the neighborhood didn’t care for the sports bar, so Rolands is no longer open.

    There’s an entire population in this neighborhood that was so happy when Ward Eight opened. I am one of the regulars there, and I can tell you that I am continuously in awe of how many people I’ve met at Ward Eight who are all: 1. regulars that I hadn’t encountered yet, 2. members of the neighborhood, and 3. equally ecstatic that W8 opened. And you know what’s crazy? That group of people I’m talking about are White, Black, Asian, and the like. They are business owners, independent contractors, stock gurus, whatever and they have all lived in this neighborhood for a long time and like me, they were bummed they didn’t have a local bar they liked going to. Like me, they didn’t want to go someplace loud. Like me, they were willing to pay a little more for quality. For many of us in the neighborhood, yes even Black people, we were happy to finally have someplace to go. And none of the regulars in the bar think their sign it “racist as hell” as you call it – it’s saying, “Hey, this is a classy place, if you’re feeling drunk and rowdy tonight go someplace else.” And I’m glad I won’t have to see any drunken White frat boy Cubs fans stumbling into that bar on their way home from a mid day Cubs game on a Saturday – cuz they wear baseball caps too, it’s not a Black thing.

    You don’t fit into the category of people who want to go to W8. You think it costs too much. That’s fine, not every place is going to suit your demands and you can’t get mad about it every time that happens. And hey, Sol Cafe serves coffee and has $5 sandwiches that you’re welcome to go to instead and you can bring booze there sometimes when they have events on the weekend. And there’s still Tally Ho that you can go to. Maybe someday another bar will open up that is something between what Tally Ho and Ward Eight are – maybe you should be the one to open it. But right now, having two bars that are on two opposite sides of the demand spectrum is going to create an environment that encourages other businesses somewhere in the middle of that spectrum to start opening. Suddenly Howard is going to be able to serve a diverse set of people, classes, races, whatever because we have two totally different scenes that come out here. Maybe the next bar to open will just serve burgers and pints of beer for less than $10. There was supposedly a cool Mexican restaurant that thought about opening on the block, but sadly they decided they couldn’t. I’m sorry you can’t see Ward Eight as a good thing, but maybe you should move or something if you want more bars you can enjoy and aren’t so offended by it rather than writing a nasty anonymous article on the internet about a really nice couple who are anything but racist.

    Liked by 2 people

    • She apparently believes that “speaking truth to power” involves slandering and trying to destroy a small business opened by a couple of 20-somethings going into debt. Yes, that’s “sticking’ it to The Man” all right. What courage!

      Liked by 1 person

    • One of the owners of W8 is also Asian American. In fact, 2 of the 5 people who run the place are minorities. Trust me, this article presents a completely skewed view of the place. The customers are diverse, the staff is diverse. I have no idea why this blogger is trying to bring them down. It’s very strange. She seems to think she is defending some imaginary person or people who have been (or could be) injured by its existence. Or its signage. She has no actual victim to hold up so she is imagining one.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. THANK YOU for writing this. Saw someone share off Gaper’s Block, but from what I understand, they don’t pay writers. So I’m going to share this version instead.

    This is so incredibly well-written and is so important in talking about racism and gentrification and systemic racism (and how insidious systemic racism is in our governments and businesses). TIF dollars are used to white wash a neighborhood in instances like this. Absolutely unacceptable. Thank you for sharing this. I hope many, many people read it.

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