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Letters to the Editor

Blackface, Liam Neeson and Adidas — they’re not the real problem

Northam is under fire for a racial photo that appeared in his college yearbook. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is under fire for a racist photo that appeared on his page in his medical school yearbook.| AP Photo/Steve Helber

In the last couple of weeks, we have watched Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both admit to wearing blackface; actor Liam Neeson talk about going out and looking for a black man to kill; and Adidas having to pull back a Black History Month shoe that was “all white.”  Really?

While I think the governor and attorney general should resign, I also think it is easy to box in our anger at these individuals and at Adidas, and miss the deeper issue. If we only target our anger and energy at them, it can give cover to the real problem and make America feel good — as though she has stood up to the problem of racism.

I believe that’s why Mr. Trump and so many others tried to target Colin Kaepernick and and claim his stance was about disrespect to veterans and the flag, so we could refuse to deal with the real issue of racial profiling and the killing of black men in America.

The truth is the governor, the attorney general, and Neeson are simply the fruit of a nation with racism and bigotry in its DNA. It is the same DNA that allowed a proclaimed Nazi, Art Jones, to receive 25% of the vote in last year’s Congressional election in Illinois. Until we have the courage to deal with the roots of a country birthed in genocide and built on slavery, and to expose our racism, we will continue to see new fruit come forth time and time again. America, like South Africa, needs a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” and faith communities need to once again become the moral compass and prophetic voices that confront racism and expose it from our pulpits.

So yes, let’s deal with this present fruit that is before us, but let’s use this moment to go to the roots of the tree. Racism, bigotry, privilege, supremacy, and entitlement are the original sins of America. It’s time to repent and be healed!

Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, Faith Community of Saint Sabina

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Obama Center lawsuit is disingenuous, demeaning

On Feb. 14, a federal judge will decide whether the lawsuit brought by the formerly unknown, unrepresentative North Side group Protect Our Parks can proceed. The suit attempts to prevent the Obama Presidential Center from being built in Jackson Park, which they claim would be an illegal use of public land. The group and their accomplices, Jackson Park Watch, Preservation Chicago and the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington D.C., say that the OPC is welcome to build anywhere else on the South Side.

With this frivolous lawsuit, POP and their allies are sabotaging an unprecedented opportunity for the underserved South Side. Their insistence that the OPC could be built anywhere else on the South Side is disingenuous and demeaning. The OPC belongs in Jackson Park as a fitting tribute to the country’s most historic presidency, and it deserves to take its place of honor alongside Chicago’s other great lakeside cultural institutions. When our family moved to Hyde Park 30 years ago, the disparity between the south and north sides was difficult to comprehend in a city of Chicago’s wealth and size. Well-intentioned Hyde Parkers warned us of dangers they believed would befall us should we dare venture beyond the neighborhood. Those dangers were thought to extend to the sadly neglected Jackson Park, the former site of Frederick Law Olmsted’s layout for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition. In recent years, Jackson Park has been much improved. Once deemed too dangerous to use, it’s now deemed too precious to use by POP and its accomplices, who apparently want to minimize the OPC’s significance by insisting it be built as far as possible from lakeside public view.

Their effort recalls the memory of shameful redlining that helps to explain Chicago’s racial segregation and division.

Judith McCue, Edward Kibblewhite, Hyde Park