In Illinois, political lies are evidence that Black lives don’t matter much

Northwest Indiana has flourished while politicians did nothing to bring an airport and economic development to poor, Black south suburbs. That’s odd, unless you understand how self-destructive racism can be.

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Demonstrators hold signs in support of Black Lives Matters during a march on Juneteenth, June 19, 2020.

Demonstrators hold signs in support of Black Lives Matters during a march on Juneteenth, June 19, 2020.

Natasha Moustache/Getty Images

Black lives matter, but maybe not so much if you are among Illinois’ political leaders or Chicago’s business elite.

Last week, a group of local political leaders representing Cook County’s south suburbs, some of the poorest in the nation, called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to pressure Amazon to invest in a South Suburban Airport near Peotone. Chicago Ald. David Moore (17th Ward) later called his own press conference to support the cause, but none of the press attended.

The South Suburban Airport has been the target of political skullduggery for 30 years.

In the 1980s, a tri-state commission was formed to study the best possible location for an enormous airport to replace O’Hare, which was nearing capacity and losing its battle to remain the world’s busiest airport.

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To the amazement of everyone, the location that was chosen was an area near south suburban Peotone.

You see, important stuff, large government investments, simply are not made in the south suburbs of Chicago, which had become home to abandoned steel factories and numerous landfills.

Poor Black families were forced out of Chicago neighborhoods undergoing gentrification and into the south suburbs. Others came seeking better schools and a safer life after public housing projects were destroyed.

White families began moving south to Indiana around the same time.

Hit by some of the highest property tax rates in Illinois, business strips began closing in the south suburbs, as a commercial boom hit Indiana.

Illinois refused to build a casino in the south suburbs despite pleas from community leaders, while Hammond and Gary reaped millions of dollars in tax revenue from Illinois residents gambling in Indiana casinos for nearly two decades.

Although Illinois spent nearly $100 million acquiring property for that south suburban airport, it never got built. At one point, a private development company seemed interested in financing the airport, but Illinois wasn’t interested.

In fact, Chicago actually began using landing fees collected from airlines at O’Hare Airport to subsidize an airport in Gary, Indiana. Yes, Chicago used millions of dollars to help finance an airport in another state, rather than support an airport in the south suburbs that had been named as the best possible site.

And there were no shouts of outrage from the Chicago news media or people in power.

Chicago political leaders, who controlled vendors at Chicago airports, didn’t want to lose the millions of dollars generated through patronage and politics. The airlines had a virtual monopoly at O’Hare and didn’t want competition.

In the meantime, public schools in the mostly Black south suburbs became some of the most underfunded in the country because of a lack of property tax money.

The economic disparity between the south and north suburbs can be easily seen simply by driving through them. Giant business towers, corporate headquarters, massive industrial parks boomed in the western and northern suburbs, conveniently located a short drive from O’Hare.

Vacant storefronts and abandoned homes littered the south suburbs, which happened to have some of the longest commuter times in the nation for workers as well as the highest unemployment rates.

Massive new warehouse projects, fulfillment centers and logistics hubs, are slated to replace many of the unsightly abandoned homes and empty storefronts as Amazon and other companies have launched projects in Markham, Country Club Hills, and Matteson, among other communities.

The potential of thousands of jobs at $15 an hour brought rejoicing, although no one knows for sure how many will be full-time jobs that provide health insurance.

The politicians cheering on the new Amazon developments suggested that just maybe it was time to build that long-awaited third airport in Peotone to ship products across the country.

There was silence from the governor’s mansion.

Many whites still believe poor, Black communities just happen.

Northwest Indiana has flourished while Chicago and Illinois political leaders did nothing. That’s odd unless you understand how self-destructive racism can be.

Just another reminder that when folks claim black lives matter, they often lie.

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