|A guard stretches at the Barbara Kruger show currently on exhibit at the Art Institute.|
Harvey E. Clark was a CTA bus driver and World War II vet. In July 1951, he moved his family’s belongings into an apartment at 6139 W. 19th Street in Cicero. Before they could reside there, however, his would-be neighbors went berserk, rampaging through the building while the Cicero police stood by, doing nothing. Thousands of rioters smashed windows and dragged the Clarks’ furniture into the street. The governor had to call out the Illinois National Guard.
Clark was Black. I am white, but nevertheless can still convey the story of how Cicero greeted the family that would have been the suburb’s first Black residents.
At least I hope so; it’s in my next book. That hope is open to debate, however. In our current fraught racial moment, who is saying something can count as much as what is being said. Maybe more. The Art Institute of Chicago, like many old guard cultural institutions, is trying to be less lily white, and the museum’s eye fell on its staff of volunteer docents, who were fired en masse Sept. 3. Not for what they were telling visitors; but for who was doing the telling.
“As a civic institution, we acknowledge our responsibility to rebuild the volunteer educator program in a way that allows community members of all income levels to participate, responds to issues of class and income equity, and does not require financial flexibility to participate,” is how Veronica Stein, the Woman’s Board executive director of Learning and Public Engagement, put it in an email delivering the bad news. “Rather than refresh our current program, systems and processes, we feel that now is the time to rebuild our program from the ground up.”
Fox News expressed it far more succinctly: “Chicago museum fires all of its mostly White female, financially well-off docents for lack of diversity.”
I think that’s why I initially ignored the story. Nobody cries like a bully, and while the Red Staters try to blind America to its racist past, labeling honest assessment of history as “critical race theory” and banning it by law, they seek cover by cherry-picking tales of cancel culture overreach, mostly from academia, to pretend that they are victims. Why amplify that?
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