When Target made public its callous decision to close its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park, many residents of Chicago’s South Side were shocked and angered. After all, they were loyal Target customers who spent their hard-earned money in these stores, conveniently located in their communities. Their anger grew into action and as their congressman and resident of the South Side, I joined them as they demanded Target Corp. keep the stores open and work on a turnaround plan.
Simply put, the residents’ demands of Target are about economic justice and respect. Their position is deeply rooted in the innate self-dignity and self-esteem they have for themselves and their community. The idea that residents are “begging” Target to stay is ill-informed, insulting and rooted in a sense of pride, a sentiment that leads to destruction as is stated in the ancient biblical proverb.
We have seen the truth of this proverb born out in communities throughout the South Side. Retailers come to these communities and take our money, often against the backdrop of poor customer service. Then, they leave in the cover of night, with little or no warning and with little or no explanation. In the wake of their departure, neighborhoods are left with abandoned, defunct structural eye-sores and fewer and fewer retail and grocery choices. This is why the engaged and focused South Side residents understand their fight is about Target specifically and disinvestment in general.
We cannot make the critical mistake of confusing pride with dignity. Pride is a function of our lower calling and dignity is a function of our higher calling. Our pride cannot weather the rough waters of injustice but our dignity can and must. It is the residents’ sense of dignity that makes demands of Target, telling the corporate executives they cannot use residents’ dollars and then disappear, disinvest, disrespect, and dehumanize them.
I have spoken with the dignified senior citizens who demand the convenience of having their drug prescriptions filled in their neighborhood. I have listened to millennials and perspective homeowners who demand the simple amenity of having a Target within walking distance of their home.
I have heard the demand of current homeowners who increasingly see their property values decline, businesses flee, and overgrown vacant lots multiple. They are witnessing in real time their prized communities suffer from disinvestment, disenfranchisement and total disregard.
The late, great “Queen of Soul.” Ms. Aretha Franklin said it best in her noted civil rights anthem. It is a clarion call for these South Side residents. It is the opposite of begging. It is a demand. It is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We will demand our respect on Black Friday, as we publicly demonstrate our boycott of Target stores. Join us in front of the Target in Chatham at 7 a.m.