CHICAGO — A recent U.S. Department of Justice court filing that argues it is unconstitutional to jail people for low-level crimes solely because they can’t make bail should be a reminder that our broken criminal justice system isn’t only plagued by the effects of institutional racism.
It’s also rigged against the poor.
We all know Chicago is really two cities — one for the rich and one for the poor — separate and unequal.
Just this month, we witnessed a pair of local protests that, when considered side-by-side, illustrates how different people's priorities can be in economically polar opposite parts of town.
In the less-than-affluent South Shore neighborhood, for instance, folks were pretty ticked off after video was released showing police officers shooting up their block in an incident that killed an unarmed teenager fleeing in a stolen car.
"As neighbors, we think it is unnecessary that this young man died. Car chases are dangerous in a residential neighborhood,” said Kate Miller, who lives next door to where police shot and killed Paul O’Neal, at an Aug. 6 protest.
About a week later in the Gold Coast, a rich part of town a few miles a north along the lakeshore, the hot topic near the Viagra Triangle was that a group neighbors rallied against a local business owner over the sale of substandard gelato.
“We don’t deserve what is being offered right now as dessert,” one complained.
The existence of such stark economic divides, along with how it affects our criminal justice system, is at the heart of the Us-vs.-Them reality that divides cities all across America.
It's a conversation that we should keep going.
On Tuesday, at the Siskel Film Center, the great class debate continues with a screening of “Class Divide,” the latest feature film of filmmaker Marc Levin, executive producer of the CNN documentary series “Chicagoland.”*
Levin’s film tackles issues of income inequality, class mobility and gentrification as seen through the eyes of young people on two sides of the street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
“This is the story all over America. People in Chicago, they know this story. They see how neighborhoods are changing. They see juxtapositions. The city is considered one of the most segregated with an incredible Downtown and wealth on the North Side, and then the opposite on the West and South sides,” Levin said.
“In this film we found that juxtaposition on literally one street corner of 26th Street and 10th Avenue."
“Class Divide” is a tale of two sides of the street story told through the eyes of kids who live there, a neighborhood Levin has called home for more than 30 years.
“Instead of hearing about class from the mayor or at the political conventions, these kids offer a fresh perspective,” Levin said.
“I think the biggest revelation is that as different as their worlds are — a world of privilege, a world of struggle in low income — the common bound is an anxiety of where they fit in. … These kids, at a very young age, are already starting to realize, whoa, this is going to be our generation’s struggle.”
“Class Divide” is set to be screened 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.
* Mark Konkol was a writer, producer and narrator on "Chicagoland."
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