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Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

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In Black on the Block, Mary Pattillo—a Newsweek Woman of the 21st Century—uses the historic rise, alarming fall, and equally dramatic renewal of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood to explore the politics of race and class in contemporary urban America.             There was a time when North Kenwood–Oakland was plagued by gangs, drugs, violence, and the font of pov In Black on the Block, Mary Pattillo—a Newsweek Woman of the 21st Century—uses the historic rise, alarming fall, and equally dramatic renewal of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood to explore the politics of race and class in contemporary urban America.             There was a time when North Kenwood–Oakland was plagued by gangs, drugs, violence, and the font of poverty from which they sprang. But in the late 1980s, activists rose up to tackle the social problems that had plagued the area for decades. Black on the Block tells the remarkable story of how these residents laid the groundwork for a revitalized and self-consciously black neighborhood that continues to flourish today. But theirs is not a tale of easy consensus and political unity, and here Pattillo teases out the divergent class interests that have come to define black communities like North Kenwood–Oakland. She explores the often heated battles between haves and have-nots, home owners and apartment dwellers, and newcomers and old-timers as they clash over the social implications of gentrification. Along the way, Pattillo highlights the conflicted but crucial role that middle-class blacks play in transforming such districts as they negotiate between established centers of white economic and political power and the needs of their less fortunate black neighbors.   “A century from now, when today's sociologists and journalists are dust and their books are too, those who want to understand what the hell happened to Chicago will be finding the answer in this one.”—Chicago Reader   “To see how diversity creates strange and sometimes awkward bedfellows . . . turn to Mary Pattillo's Black on the Block.”—Boston Globe


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In Black on the Block, Mary Pattillo—a Newsweek Woman of the 21st Century—uses the historic rise, alarming fall, and equally dramatic renewal of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood to explore the politics of race and class in contemporary urban America.             There was a time when North Kenwood–Oakland was plagued by gangs, drugs, violence, and the font of pov In Black on the Block, Mary Pattillo—a Newsweek Woman of the 21st Century—uses the historic rise, alarming fall, and equally dramatic renewal of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood to explore the politics of race and class in contemporary urban America.             There was a time when North Kenwood–Oakland was plagued by gangs, drugs, violence, and the font of poverty from which they sprang. But in the late 1980s, activists rose up to tackle the social problems that had plagued the area for decades. Black on the Block tells the remarkable story of how these residents laid the groundwork for a revitalized and self-consciously black neighborhood that continues to flourish today. But theirs is not a tale of easy consensus and political unity, and here Pattillo teases out the divergent class interests that have come to define black communities like North Kenwood–Oakland. She explores the often heated battles between haves and have-nots, home owners and apartment dwellers, and newcomers and old-timers as they clash over the social implications of gentrification. Along the way, Pattillo highlights the conflicted but crucial role that middle-class blacks play in transforming such districts as they negotiate between established centers of white economic and political power and the needs of their less fortunate black neighbors.   “A century from now, when today's sociologists and journalists are dust and their books are too, those who want to understand what the hell happened to Chicago will be finding the answer in this one.”—Chicago Reader   “To see how diversity creates strange and sometimes awkward bedfellows . . . turn to Mary Pattillo's Black on the Block.”—Boston Globe

30 review for Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    Pattillo argues that the return of black professionals to working poor black neighborhoods creates an underexplored Black Gentrification, in which black community is forged through differing voices of class within it. Though in racial solidarity against white newcomers and white power establishment, the interests and pursuits of black professionals and oldtimer working poor residents often differ. Often, black professionals move to working poor black neighborhoods out of a racial solidarity to h Pattillo argues that the return of black professionals to working poor black neighborhoods creates an underexplored Black Gentrification, in which black community is forged through differing voices of class within it. Though in racial solidarity against white newcomers and white power establishment, the interests and pursuits of black professionals and oldtimer working poor residents often differ. Often, black professionals move to working poor black neighborhoods out of a racial solidarity to help, from “integration fatigue” of living in majority white places, from suburbs and other cities. Pattillo observed the North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, which was once the poorest neighborhood but was being transformed with the arrival of black professionals. She observed that black professionals often served as middlemen between power establishment and black working poor, alternating between advocates/distributers of resources and marginalizes who help push black poor out. At the same time, because of their blackness, they have credibility within the black community even as they help push black poor away by advocating for mixed-income housing to replace public housing, and for politics of respectability. They also push against loitering, public housing, outside barbeques, and hanging outside into the night, at the same time they bring mortgage capital into the neighborhood which had long lacked it. Rising property values then push out many working poor blacks, as well as pushing for charter schools to the detriment of public schools. Clash of values still occurs within the black community even as it is argued of an overall black experience. Key Themes and Concepts: -Class differences between black newcomers and old timers complicate black solidarity. Politics of respectability and appropriateness. -Race still a unifier against white power institutions and white newcomers. -Much of the book explores the meeting of black middle class and black working poor. -Crime, housing, and education tend to be the main issues.

  2. 5 out of 5

    FL

    Social justice discourse in the United States, at least in white activist circles, often conflates race and class. Consequently, some phenomena such as gentrification, segregation, and displacement tend to be discussed along exclusively racial lines. This book provides an excellently clear case study in these distinctions not aligning. Pattillo discusses the arrival of the black middle class in an neighborhood of Chicago that had formerly been the single poorest in the city. Many of the tensions Social justice discourse in the United States, at least in white activist circles, often conflates race and class. Consequently, some phenomena such as gentrification, segregation, and displacement tend to be discussed along exclusively racial lines. This book provides an excellently clear case study in these distinctions not aligning. Pattillo discusses the arrival of the black middle class in an neighborhood of Chicago that had formerly been the single poorest in the city. Many of the tensions discussed here---regarding public housing, school choice, and the role of police---are the sort that are still most often discussed in racial terms. In this book, they're class terms, because the neighborhood remains entirely black even as it gentrifies. As a white person, it's valuable for me to know how much split of opinion there is in such matters even among the black community. Pattillo's treatment of the issues is very clear and digestible, providing a wealth of context for each of these debates and what the stakes were for everyone. Her overarching thesis is the role of the black middle class as "middlemen" between the black lower-class and the white ruling class. However, I would have liked to hear more about broader academic discussions of gentrification, and where her text fits into debates involving interracially gentrifying neighborhoods, whether in Chicago or elsewhere. Without that comparison, it becomes harder to separate out racial and class-based issues.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This is my first shot at using this system, so if I say or do something wrong I beg your forgive-itude! I am a closeted urban sociologist/historian who has found his way out of the Halls of UC into the construction trades. I make my living as an electrician. But I have been addicted since the first time I read Boss to all things political and ethnic and social and historical and demographic and chicago-ish. I guess that's a mouthful. I loved this book. I am hard pressed for time so wont get into a This is my first shot at using this system, so if I say or do something wrong I beg your forgive-itude! I am a closeted urban sociologist/historian who has found his way out of the Halls of UC into the construction trades. I make my living as an electrician. But I have been addicted since the first time I read Boss to all things political and ethnic and social and historical and demographic and chicago-ish. I guess that's a mouthful. I loved this book. I am hard pressed for time so wont get into a detailed critique. Besides most folks here would be better at it. But I am so glad this author decided to write about this topic. I remember spending many years in the 1980s ringing the IC from Hyde Park to the loop, sitting in the top deck and gazing out at those buildings and the history I saw there. I always felt certain it would "come back" (I recognize that is a politically loaded term. I say it with no judgment on the issues of displacement, economic fairness, ect. Being a blue collar man from a working class family, my views are neither all for the poor nor all for the yuppies.) But knowing how close to the Lake and the train this area was, and how fabulous the architecture is, I felt certain it was destined for revitalization at some point. Eventually it happened, and Ms. Patillo's text was excellent and enjoyable. I hope she writes more!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Holloway

    Mary Pattillo does us all a service in writing this text. As central cities are becoming fashionable again and gentrification and neighborhood change become more and more a significant concern for the Black populations of these central cities, Pattillo investigates the varied layers of social interactions and how they influence the process of neighborhood change using the North Kenwood-Oakland Community of Chicago as a case study. Pattillo positions 2 ideas in this text: 1) that class difference Mary Pattillo does us all a service in writing this text. As central cities are becoming fashionable again and gentrification and neighborhood change become more and more a significant concern for the Black populations of these central cities, Pattillo investigates the varied layers of social interactions and how they influence the process of neighborhood change using the North Kenwood-Oakland Community of Chicago as a case study. Pattillo positions 2 ideas in this text: 1) that class differences b/w black newcomers and old timers in a community complicate the project of racial solidarity due to concepts of respectability and how they structure space in terms thing like the presence of public housing vs mixed income housing and what is 'appropriate' land use as well as power and leverage in term of negotiation with other stakeholders in the case of North Kenwood-Oakland. The second idea is that despite the very critical difference race still operates as a unifying category with newcomer middle class and old timer working class Black folk both mistrustful of incoming whites and government institutions. An excellent read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This is a masterful study on gentrification and the construction of the black community from the participant-observationist standpoint of an African-American sociologist on the South Side of Chicago. The combined use of ethnography, historical contextualization, sociological data and legal precedence give this book a thorough and diverse perspective on what racially homogenous gentrification can/does look, as well as how the (forced) brokers/gentry/middle-people that act as agents in this urban This is a masterful study on gentrification and the construction of the black community from the participant-observationist standpoint of an African-American sociologist on the South Side of Chicago. The combined use of ethnography, historical contextualization, sociological data and legal precedence give this book a thorough and diverse perspective on what racially homogenous gentrification can/does look, as well as how the (forced) brokers/gentry/middle-people that act as agents in this urban shift are structured.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Pattillo focuses her attention on the North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood on the South side of Chicago. She provides a strong critique of the Chicago housing failures. Her role of researcher can be called into question as she is writing about the area she lived in. She also had ties to a neighborhood organization and was a university professor which raised her to a higher socioeconomic class than the rest of the neighborhood. Her arguments (while valid) are not unbiased.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luis

    Fantastic look at an aspect of gentrification that people often don't see or understand. The conflict between middle class black moving into a lower class black neighborhood. A detailed look at the relationships, the history, economics, and politics that occur within a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. A brilliant book by a gifted researcher. Fantastic look at an aspect of gentrification that people often don't see or understand. The conflict between middle class black moving into a lower class black neighborhood. A detailed look at the relationships, the history, economics, and politics that occur within a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. A brilliant book by a gifted researcher.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    "Middle-class and poor blacks fight over small territory while some whites oversee the brawl and others excuse themselves from participation by moving even further from areas of significant racial and/or economic diversity." "Middle-class and poor blacks fight over small territory while some whites oversee the brawl and others excuse themselves from participation by moving even further from areas of significant racial and/or economic diversity."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Very fascinating study on something rarely discussed: black-on-black regentrification. Much like Black Flight, this is something people don't even want to acknowledge exists. I could hardly put the book down, but I'm that kind of nerd. Very fascinating study on something rarely discussed: black-on-black regentrification. Much like Black Flight, this is something people don't even want to acknowledge exists. I could hardly put the book down, but I'm that kind of nerd.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kyla

    A patronizing view of gentrification from a gentrifier.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I liked reading about the neighborhood, particularly the chapter on schools, but some parts were too bogged down with sociological research and theories.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Guy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Vanputten

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Mason

  15. 4 out of 5

    Naomi McCormick

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Wiles

  17. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aliza

  19. 5 out of 5

    Luke Clarke

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alicia M. Sanchez

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  23. 5 out of 5

    Yvette

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jarrod

  25. 5 out of 5

    Quinnmesha Yearby

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mysti

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kara

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  29. 4 out of 5

    Venus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

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