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Freshly Painted White Walls

This image is the property of learningforjustice.org/magazine/summer-2019/

This is an old blog post I wrote about my experiences as the first black family on a previously all-white block in Chicago during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.Original post: https://kevinlyles.digital.uic.edu/race/freshly-painted-white-walls/

I have reposted it here [below] for your viewing and analysis/comment. 

PolS 354. You should comment regarding the cases we have read regarding freedom of expression and assembly.  Specifically, the fundamental constitutional rights of the crowd to assemble on public property and express themselves freely near my home.

PolS 358. You should comment regarding the cases we have read regarding fair housing, The 1969 Fair Housing Act, freedom of assembly, and any other constitutional issues raised in PolS 358.

PolS 359. To what extent does/can access to voting address the day-to-day experiences of marginalized groups?  We moved into this “new” house the same year as the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Chicago, according to the 1959 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was the “most residentially segregated large city in the nation.”  That was the year I was born.

I was born on the South-side of Chicago before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and only four years after the Brown decree (1955).  I learned about racial violence at an early age—when my parents purchased their first home.   We were “blockbusters,” the first black family on the block in 1965.  I was in half-day kindergarten when my parents drove my sister and me to see “our” first new house.  It seemed huge.  There was not one piece of furniture and every wall in every room was freshly painted white. Painted to conceal the damage done by the previous owners who moved away in the middle of the night. There was a fireplace and mantelpiece in the living room (new vocabulary word for me) and a huge backyard where I would later pitch my tent and pretend to camp.  It was so much bigger than our apartment where I had arrived 5 years earlier as a newborn and now shared a room with my older sister.  My sister and I ran through the house pretending to get lost in the small rooms.  I climbed inside the kitchen cabinets.  There was also a full basement; i.e., secret lab/dungeon/pirate cave/ big wheel race course.   And best of all, I was going to have my own room.  My own room, where I would learn to read, count, play with G.I. Joe, Hot Wheels, whittle my pinewood derby cars for cub scout merit badges, toss a ball in the air lying in the new bed, and stick chewed Bazooka Joe bubble gum under my desk.  Yes, my very own first desk and bookshelf that later became homework prison.  And my older sister, with her long reddish hair and freckles, would have to stay out!

I still remember that first day clearly; but, also the first night after we actually moved into the house.  We were the first “Negro” family on the block during the height of the civil rights movement.  A group of “white” neighbors, threw a trash can of burning paper in our backyard that first night. Some were yelling “niggers go home,” and some threw rocks at the back windows.  And, because my mother “looks white,” it may have appeared to some that not only had a Negro family moved in the neighborhood, but possibly an interracial family!  I understood none of this at the time.  Why would people try to set our house on fire?  I remember my Dad (a WWII veteran) and my mother’s brother (a Korean War veteran) standing on the back porch that night.  “Uncle Doc” was a young Chicago policeman and I saw that he had his pistol in his hand and he was shining a flashlight from the back porch into that huge dark yard and alley behind the house.  He was using words I don’t think I ever heard before.  My Dad was also angry, why?  I had never really seen him angry before.  My mother yelled at me to go back to my room and stay there.  She said it “really mean,” like she would kill me if I did not obey.  I think that scared me the most.  I ran to my sister’s room.  I recall her saying to my Dad and Uncle “they’re going to burn us out.”  She also used some words new to my vocabulary.  Why was everyone so angry, so mad?  This went on for a while, to varying degrees, but never as bad as that first night.  The “white” kids on the block were never allowed to play with me. But soon “white flight” took off on our block[s] and that was that.  The next summer, my Dad marched with thousands of others when Dr. King was stoned in broad daylight in Gage Park, Chicago, on August 5, 1966.

As a child, I always thought I was smart. Not because I necessarily earned excellent grades, but because my parents kept telling me I was smart.  Funny how kids believe what their parents tell them.  I was formally educated in a Chicago Public elementary school; then a private middle school, a private high school; and then top-rated public universities for my BA and MA.  I earned my Ph.D. at a prestigious private university where I wore the armor of being “the one” black graduate student in the graduate program the entire time I was there.  Next, a Stanford University post-doc.   Most of my formal education, like the walls in our first new house, was freshly painted white.

Anyway, my formal education prepared me for my career in the academy.   The older I get, the more time I spend struggling to unlearn the myths I was taught (and even now sometimes teach). Integrating what I learned alone in the “stacks of libraries,” with what I learned growing up on the South-side of Chicago is increasingly irreconcilable.  But I am still here.  And to paraphrase Baldwin, “to be here means that I can’t be anywhere else.”

MY FATHER AND UNCLE “DOC” STANDING OUTSIDE OF OUR “NEW” HOUSE (CIRCA ’66-’67?)
UNCLE DOC, THREE YEARS AFTER HE HELPED US SURVIVE THE “BLOCK CLUB WELCOME PARTY.”  THIS PHOTO IS TAKEN FROM IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE WITH THE PUBLIC SCHOOL ACROSS THE STREET IN THE BACKGROUND.
UNCLE DOC WITH MY SISTER AND ME IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE (’65-’67?)
AND FINALLY, THAT’S ME 5 YEARS LATER IN FRONT OF THE “MANTELPIECE.”  BY 1970, WHEN THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN, I DON’T RECALL THERE BEING ONE WHITE FAMILY LEFT ON THE BLOCK.



21 Comments

  1. Thank you, Professor Lyles, for sharing this piece with us. I think that the last line of the it is incredibly telling. By 1970 not one white family was left on the block. Chicago continues to be among the most segregated city in America. The segregation doesn’t just continue on our blocks, but in our schools and hospitals and grocery stores. If I reflect on the one year that I spent at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, what stands out to me is that nearly everyone there seemed like they were a white person from the Chicago Suburbs. Obviously that is hyperbole — there was some diversity. But it felt like so many people there were all from similar semi-affluent backgrounds. When I think about the town that I grew up in, 95% of the people were White. This type of segregation feels persistent and like no white people really want to address this. We remain this segregated society, and for the most part, it’s ignored by the people who benefit from it.

  2. I want to touch on the theme of whiteness here.

    I’m practically white. Born in 2000. An offspring of my Mexican parents who were undocumented (late70s-’91). In 2004, we made it to Naperville, an affluent white suburb west of Chicago. There, my mother and I were seen as nonwhite (my father is darker). In Mexico though, we were white. But in Naperville? No.

    Although we did not experience white flight, we did have our introductory welcomes: bags of burning dog shit peppered throughout our yard; a back-yard neighbor put up signs in all their windows facing us telling us to “Fuck Off” and “Go back to where you came from” — among other things; and some woman asking where to meet the owners of the house (as if my mother was the house-keeper or nanny).

    I was probably about 4 or 5 when I started to register the power and nature of whiteness. If I was alone around town, I was deemed as white and treated accordingly. If I was with my parents (one light-skinned, heavy accent and the other brown who worked to perfect the American accent), then cordial tones were sometimes lost. Or sometimes we were mistaken for Arabs and told the nastiest things in public. (Racists can’t even tell the difference between Spanish or Arabic — who would have thought!).

    Before I had the words, I knew race wasn’t about biology or scientific or anything principled. (WASP) People just tell you what you were and you are treated accordingly.

    For many ethnic groups, it’s a card you are given that is so strong yet can be so easily taken away depending on the political tides. For other ethnic groups, they cannot ever get the white card, for it is colorist (anti-black) at its core.

    When whiteness is threatened (from unfounded fears to lower birthrates), it expands to include more white-passing groups. It saddens me to see white-passing Hispanics jump at the chance to claim and side with whiteness. Whether from WASPs or the Spanish imperialist legacy, white hispanics are given the opportunity to be white. It drives me up the wall when I see white hispanics like me having been toss back and forth across the white line throughout history and throughout our own lives AND THEY STILL WANT TO BE A MAYO RACIST.

  3. I recall reading this story in 354. It is interesting to think of the new perspective that 358 gives us. We know about issues regarding private contracts and efforts to fight housing segregation. Despite any legal efforts we have learned about the pushback from the members of the community as well as a lack of state protection against these kinds of crimes. Private contracts allow racist agendas to legally prevail.

  4. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us Professor. It is very important to understand that you teach this class not only out of academic knowledge but also out of personal interest and connection. In 1962, Kennedy issued Executive Order No. 11063. It created the President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity and “directed federal agencies and departments to take steps to prevent discrimination in housing owned in part or in whole by the federal government or built with federal loans, grants, or other assistance” The purpose of this order was to begin the effort to ban segregation in housing. Your family moved in 1965 meaning that while segregation in housing was being addressed, discrimination and racial prejudice was still openly taking place on your lawn.

  5. I really appreciate the fact that you trusts us. Thank you so much for telling your story and how hard it was to live with people that looked different than you. I grew up in Peru and there is not a lot of diversity in my country which I cannot relate with your experience. On the other hand, learning about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 inspired my country to also be part of this and give different rights to different people that were not allowed to vote such as indigenous people in my country that did not have a good education and according to the government were “too dumb” to write or learn different things which it relates with the American history. If you don’t have the same opportunities as everyone is impossible to achieve the same grades or the same knowledge that everyone has regarding something and that is a right that was gained.

  6. Thanks for sharing your family life experiences as you grew up! I was very surprised by it actually because it reminded me how young the civil rights movement is in history. Those racists in the 60s are probably not that old now and the black children that have to endure the hardship of the time are now adults. I moved here in the US when I was eight so not understanding some of the aggressions towards you as kid, that was relatable because now I reflect on it and it really changed how I see my childhood.
    Regarding freedom of expression and assembly, people have to remember that nothing is absolute when it comes to living under a government or else it would be an anarchy. Yeah you have the right to express yourself but if it threaten me or anyone else, then that’s when it can become criminal. You can’t just say you’re going to kill someone as an expression and say it’s protected under the first Amendment. A lot of our way of expressions have to do with how our social environment is also. When you think about it, the people influenced the court and laws. We determined what is socially acceptable and during the 60’s and 70’s a lot of people might not care to do anything about a white neighbor throwing trash cans of burning paper into a black family’s home because that was more acceptable than not. But if that was to happened in 2021, I think reaction would be very different and authority would have to be more strict and punish those that did the action.

  7. Thanks for sharing this story. Really shows where you have some from in your thoughts on things and your actual boots on the grounds experiences of the Civil Rights era.

    As for how your story ties to freedom of expression and assembly, it’s sort of a funny thing that none of the cases explicitly tied to those freedoms had been ruled when your story begins (1965). However, even then, cases could’ve protected your family from what happened to them during the early days living in the neighborhood. The court could’ve ruled that some of the language of the neighbors posed a “clear and present danger” to the safety of your family as based on the ruling of Schenck v. United States (1919) or it could’ve been ruled that the words used constituted “fighting rules” based on the ruling of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942). However, if this had happened latter, there would’ve been more direct avenues to punishing the expression and conduct of the neighbors. Frisby v. Schultz (1988) and Madsen v. Women’s Health Centers (1994) both ruled for regulations and injunctions, respectively, that prevented protesters from gathering and protesting in specific areas. These cases could’ve easily been used to support regulations or injunctions placed against the neighbors gathering around your house with the intent to protect your family from distress. Thus, much distress could’ve been saved from your family if those decisions had already been ruled on.

  8. To begin, thank you for sharing your incredibly tumultuous (and unnecessary) introduction into race relations in the U.S. My family has a similar story, being from Tennessee and all. My greatx4 grandmother Mama Lottie fled under the cover of night with her 8 kids and escaped to Nashville, running from a white family who couldn’t have kids and insisted on simply stealing one of her ‘white passing’ children.
    Access to voting at certain points in history, like the Civil Rights struggle in the 50s and 60s, can impact the material conditions of minorities. However with the legal and political systems in this country designed by white men and for their use and benefit only, as well as the systematic exclusion of black voters specifically, I believe voting has little to do with addressing the day to day conditions of black people. Access to voting addresses the material needs of minorities to the extent that a white man has the power and desire to see that voting produces a positive outcome. We see this with Lyndon B Johnson, the president of the united states, having the power to change the circumstances of black americans, with succinct direction from one of the most respected civil rights leaders in history. We see this in the case of Bond v Floyd in which black voters elected a black representative, and was foiled by white male politicians. This pattern is intentional and unavoidable in today’s society and in history, so until the phenomenon of white power fails or ceases to exist, power may not ever be in the hands of the electorate, just the elected.

  9. Thank you for sharing this story with us Professor.
    I come from a small city in the southwest. Moving to Chicago was a huge shock for me because of how different it was. In Albuquerque, people live all over, the white wealthy upper class take roots up in the mountains while everyone else is relatively spread out throughout the city. Our neighborhoods aren’t nearly as institutionally segregated. To me, the way people *spoke* about neighborhoods here was jarring. Back home you referred to neighborhoods in relation to their culture (where you would venture to explore arts, sports, and shopping. where your friends lived, where the school you went to was, etc.) but not here.

  10. I greatly appreciated your story and gaining insight on some personal memories of your childhood! I especially appreciated learning that you are also constantly battling integrated lessons. I personally am harsh on myself for learning much of what I know post high school education levels. Racial tension either in the forefront of our daily conversations or swept under the rug is often a stigma that many minorities can agree to feeling in their day to day lives.
    With regard to our topics your story highlights the difficulty of defending the freedom of speech when some opinions go against the existence and progress of certain groups in our country. I have been struggling with making a level distinction between the two.. So far I think that outside of logical legal terminology there is an answer to this discussion.

  11. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I think being able to hear from a professor’s experience and childhood makes this feel like this wasn’t so long ago and were still progressing out of that era. This makes me think about redlining in Chicago and the segregation we see in neighborhoods as a result. Sadly, when I’ve talked about redlining in Chicago with my Grandpa who is 68 years and grew up in Pullman/Roseland area, and when he talks about African Americans moving into his neighborhood or block, it isn’t positive but instead the racist and ignorant white person. It is infuriating to hear him say that “they moved in and destroyed our community” but when you ask him if he ever took the time to meet his neighbors rather than being prejudiced, the answer was no. Nevertheless, I make an effort in trying to make sure my Grandpa isn’t a product of his time and try to educate him to be better because of stories like yours.

  12. First and foremost thank you for sharing this with us. I can only imagine being the first black family to move onto a white dominated block. Although i haven’t been in the same situation, I have been discriminated against and as a child called the N word. It is extremely important to have access to voting in our day to day lives because we need to vote for someone who will represent and protect us as minorities. Someone who shares the same views as us. We live in a democracy which means ruled by the people, so we have to elect officials that will address our issues and not use the position to strip our rights away and do everything to not protect African Americans.

  13. Thank you for sharing this story professor Lyles, it must have been tuff growing up during the peak of the civil rights movement, how even in the first night of moving you and your family had to deal with racially motivated attacks by your neighbors and at a young age you had to deal with those threats and discrimination because of your skin color. It reminds my family moved into the current home in 2006 and at the time that we moved we were the 3rd Hispanic family to moved into the neighborhood in a majority White neighborhood at the time. One summer day me and my mom were in front yard and my mom would talk to me in Spanish because she didn’t know English and its only language she knows and a group of women walk by and they told my mom “Speak English your in America” and at the time I didn’t know why they would say that, I was young and didn’t understand discrimination or racism yet, of course they didn’t stop the women kept harassing me and my mom and would say “You probably came into this country illegally” and “If you wanna keep speaking Spanish go back to Mexico (even though neither of my parents are from Mexico)”

    This is just the little bit racism I had to deal with at a young age and sadly there’s more stories like this in my life and I’m pretty you dealt with more discrimination, but these are stories that made us a better versions of ourselves, having to grow “thick skin” at a young age and having to fight for basic human rights like voting, integration, and many more. I think your father had to march in 1966 to fight for basic rights and if it wasn’t for his courage and many other people, segregation would’ve still exist, and literacy exams would’ve’ still been in place, voting rights wouldn’t been address.

  14. Thank you for sharing Professor, your story reminded me of my grandma when she moved from a a very small and poor town in Mexico to a larger upcoming city. She was very scared of being mistreated by the neighbors because of her background so she decided to buy property in a lower income neighborhood (where they inevitably also suffered harassment from the neighbors) even though she could have afforded property in the up coming more promising neighborhoods. Although I understand her decision if she had only taken the extra step her property would’ve multiplied in value through the years and my mother and uncles maybe would’ve had a different life. I’m glad your family stood their ground and fought against the intimidation. The places where we grow up are decisive in our development as adults and I appreciate brave people like your parents or my grandma that are willing to take risks in a world where the system is against them.

  15. Professor Lyles, I truly appreciate you sharing your personal experiences with us. This is my fourth time reading the post, yet I still cannot begin to fathom the trauma that you and your family endured following these horrific events. Something that has always infuriated me is how watered down the history of enslavement, the civil rights movement, and overall African American plight in this country is. Reading your personal experiences goes so deep and shows just how recent these events were. By not acknowledging African American history and giving it the attention that it deserves, we will never progress as a society. In fact, this is the reason we are still dealing with grave inequalities, inequities, and discrimination in this country; the white supremacists in power who control many of our institutions have made it a point to try to erase black history in this country. The same ones who attempted to silence and suppress black voices then by disenfranchising them, are doing the same thing now in more covert ways. The freshly painted white walls metaphor is extremely powerful and is so applicable to today; I too received an education that was “painted white” and it wasn’t until taking yours and Professor Johari’s classes that I was taught the whole truth.

    This read also reminded me of one of the opening chapters in the autobiography of Malcolm X, where he explained the repeated instances of white supremacist groups, especially the KKK, terrorizing him and his family. They burned several of his homes, completely destroying one in Michigan, and nearly killing him and his entire family (shortly after they murdered his father). These gut wrenching events, including what you and your family suffered from I’m sure, were brushed under the rug, as the elected officials in power never had the interests of African Americans at heart. Even when their lives were on the line. There were elected representatives and officials who solely represented the interests of white people, as more than often, black Americans had no choice or say in who was representing them.

    Thank you once again Professor Lyles. I really enjoyed this read and seeing these pictures of you and your family. 🙂 Also, your father was truly a revolutionary, May he Rest In Peace. You all will be in my prayers.

  16. Thank you for sharing this story with us Professor Lyles. It is always an interesting to read and hear the perspectives children take on events such as these that occur during historically unprecedented times. I remember hearing stories like this from my own grandfather who immigrated to Chicago from Mexico when he was just 3 years old and having to endure this same kind of violence sometimes aimed directly at him and his brothers. Unfortunately, these experiences have made him and my dad to a certain extent believe that voting does not really matter because nothing changes. This is of course disheartening to hear because overtime we have had better access to voting due to the VRA because of how relentless the Civil Rights Movement was. Access to voting is extremely important to help change the ways in which we are treated by our government because they are suppossed to protect us from agressions such as the ones you and your family endured.

  17. Thank you for sharing this with us Professor Lyles. When learning about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in middle and high school, they seem to portray them as a switch where things were once bad and now they’re good because of these Acts. Although they were big leaps in the right direction that changed the lives of black Americans in various aspects, the racist remarks and white supremacy continues to live on. The VRA prohibited racial discrimination at the polls, so it gives a large portion of the population who had previously been silenced from voting to go out and vote for people that will represent them in hopes they will be their voice in the government when dealing with issues that directly affect them.

  18. Your story is honest and relatable to many even now, things may have evolved somewhat but many problems remain the same. As a mixed race, low class Hispanic female I experienced a certain kind of violence when I lived in the only small house in a west suburb full of mansion owning white Americans. Police tailed me as I walked to the park at 13. They invaded my home, wondering where the “man of the house” was even though we were being raised by our single mother. A jock strap was left as a welcoming gift on the handle of our back door the day we moved in. We spent three years surviving the horror of that place, and it was in that place that I became aware of how many people determined my value as a human being. Perhaps they were trying to run us out the way that they were trying to run you and your family out.

    It was in that place that my mom took me with her to vote for Obama, a big moment, she told me, for our future. I was only 13 so I didn’t understand at the time how it was important but I’m an adult now and I value my ability to vote. I vote as an attempt to advocate for myself and my needs. I view it as an attempt at advocacy because it often fails us, but just the accessibility makes all the difference.

  19. This is my third time reading this blog post and as always, I appreciate you sharing this with the class. I think that looking at this story with a voting rights focus is very valuable. Housing is one of the many ways that white supremacy is upheld. Whether through various means of gentrification or through blatant racist attacks such as the ones you and your family faced, these actions are upheld and empowered through who we vote for. Of course, “we” is a very general term and does not include all marginalized groups. When marginalized groups are denied the right to vote, they cannot choose people who have their interests in mind. Instead white people get to choose governmental officials and representatives who will then vote to uphold things like housing discrimination. This reminds me a lot of Malcolm X’s perspective on how everything is connected and the entire plague of racism needs to be addressed, not just certain aspects like education and voting. Discrimination bleeds into all facets of life and even with the power to vote, all options usually lead to the preservation of racism as we can still see today. The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was, of course, progress, but it did not eradicate the effects of racism and white supremacy that are still very much alive.

  20. It is fascinating what i am learning in the class. When I came to the United States couple years ago, I was shocking when I was seeing that some people are complaining about the about government and system because for me almost everything was looking perfect, coming from a war zone and poor country. Now after these years that I am living here in the U.S and learning and hearing story like yours, I realize that what I have experienced in other corner of the world, a lot of people have experienced that in here.

    Your story is not just a story, it is a history of a minority group in one of the first democratic country, and where it fights in world wars to bring democracy to the other countries. thank you for sharing you story from a history.

  21. Zach Brahmbhatt5:47 PM May 3
    I wanted to extend the thanks of many of my classmates for sharing your personal stories and anecdotes with us. I wanted to comment on this post because I, particularly, resonate with your comments about your father and uncle being veterans yet still facing abhorrent acts of discrimination. My father was born in India and chose to serve in the U.S. Army following his completion of high school in the states. He has nothing but pride for his service; however, he does not look like “Uncle Sam.” I can remember him telling me similar stories of trash being thrown at him in public places and him being called racial slurs following the acts of 9/11 due to his brown skin and appearance. For those individuals, his service and sacrifice meant nothing, because patriotism and love for your country have a white asterisk next to them.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Juan Capilla
    Juan Capilla7:04 PM Apr 30
    The Fair Housing Act gave many Black Americans the right to purchase a home without facing racial discrimination. This story is reflective of the social consequences that followed such legislation as White Americans continued to resist racial integration through violence and protests if necessary. In this way, it seems to continue the legacy of such cases as ‘Cooper v. Aaron’ in which white mobs rioted and protested when Black students were allowed to enter the Little Rock Central High School. However, in cases like these, unlike in ‘Cooper’, the fact that the violence is limited solely to private action makes federal protection difficult to obtain, which reflects the threat posed by the State Action Doctrine on the lives and wellness of Black Americans.
    Reply
    Misty Villagomez
    Misty Villagomez12:37 AM Apr 20
    Thank you, Professor Lyles, for sharing your experience. As my other classmates have said, some people believe that the Civil Rights Movement and mistreatment of Black people are extremely behind in the United States History. However, in reality, there are still living people who can talk about the movement, Jim Crow Laws, and more. Therefore by sharing your view as a child gives students a reality check. The fact that you were exposed to racial violence at such a young age is saddening. Your choice to add that both your father and uncle were Veterans was beneficial because it shows that even being within the military does not save you from racism. This goes along with the current video released of police officers mistreating a Black Latino Army Lieutenant. Concerning fair housing, the FHA of 1969 is how your family was able to purchase their house without facing discrimination, but that sadly could not stop people from being violent towards your family.
    Reply
    Denver Hatcher
    Denver Hatcher9:45 AM Apr 15
    Professor Lyles, you are often generous with sharing parts of your life in class— anecdotes, family photos, quippy comments about your children, and the like— and it is always appreciated. Though, as generous as you are, this has often left me curious about your childhood and especially your experience in the academy. This excerpt is beautiful and I’m grateful for the questions it answers and context it offers. But in particular, I appreciate that you understand the currency of sharing your own history with students. It goes a long way to diminish the often dehumanizing effects of the academy.

    As for relating to 358, yours is a story which illustrates that even as the law began ‘soften’, Jim Crow receded, and the civil rights era made tangible change for the better, Black families continued to bear the brunt of violent white supremacy and take on new burdens as they asserted their newfound social abilities.
    Reply
    Alejandra Natera
    Alejandra Natera9:25 AM Apr 15
    For many, including myself, the Civil Rights Movement is often portrayed as a somewhat “ancient” (not literally) era; when in reality it is modern history. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us– I particularly resonate with the metaphor of the “white walls”, which you later use to describe your educational experience. As I perceived it, “white walls” are white spaces, the commodity of the white man/woman. Having attended private schools my entire life (being one of the few scholarship kids), I have experienced many white walls myself– often feeling like an outsider trapped in these enclosed white walls. Although our experiences differ, I believe these “white walls” continue to be prevalent in today’s society and continue to be a divisive aspect of our daily routines.
    Reply
    Amy Siddiqui
    Amy Siddiqui9:09 AM Apr 15
    I found this post to be very moving and touching so I appreciate that you shared it with us. I think many believe that segregation ended when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, and treat the civil rights era as some time in American history that happened 1000 years ago and one that people should “get over.” I think many don’t understand that just because something becomes a law, doesn’t mean everyone obeys it. You went over something in class where you talked about how the Supreme Court didn’t have the tools to really enforce their rulings and that it was up to the people, at one point, to take heed of their rulings and follow them. I think this post is just one of the millions of examples of that point.

    You brought up a point that I never really thought about which was how people of color who weren’t black treated black people during the 60s and before then. I don’t hear this brought up a lot but I am curious on that subject. I know there were many asian, indigenous, latino, and middle eastern people in the United States at the time, but I don’t hear much about them in relation to the Civil Rights era. So the point about your Japanese neighbor being friendly with you was also really interesting to read.
    Reply
    Laaiba Mahmood
    Laaiba Mahmood10:29 PM Apr 14
    Dr. Lyles, thank you for sharing your reflections on these experiences in your life. Reading your perspective as a child is particularly impactful (I recently read a graphic novel for another class, “They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, which was about Takei’s experience as a child in Japanese internment camps and the perspective of children is so heartbreaking–he expressed confusion with their situation but also a childlike innocence, which I can see echoed in your writing speaking on the vocabulary you didn’t know or didn’t understand at the time). In relation to fair housing, the FHA of 1969 was the basis on which your family was able to purchase their house without facing discrimination in the sale based on race. But, even though you all were able to move to you new neighborhood because of the Act, I don’t think the act in and of itself could have prevented the violence that your family faced at the hands of neighboring white individuals.
    Reply
    Ranya Naser
    Ranya Naser7:00 PM Apr 13
    Thank you for sharing this Dr. Lyles. I cannot imagine how it was for you as a small child to grow up with such negative sentiments around you. Today, racism and discrimination still affects children, I cannot imagine how much more intense it was while you were growing up. Your academic story is also very inspiring and shows the importance of access to education for students. With regards to the Fair Housing Act, this essentially made it possible for black families to finally move in and start to integrate with other communities. However, this does not mean it always did so. Today, there are still home owners who prevent minority families from purchasing the property.
    Reply
    Martha Madera
    Martha MaderaDec 7, 2020
    Sometimes I am disillusioned by our government, and cant help but wonder if voting really can change anything. Perhaps big legislation can be changed by voting rights, but I think that John Hope Franklin was right to state that legislation is more of a product of the society and beliefs of the time, and less of a tool to bring forth change. Voting cant stop racism and ignorance, we cant legislate prejudices and hate out of people. Instead voting helps protect the interests of minority groups, but for real day-to-day change society needs to change.

    Your story reminds me of some work I did a few summers ago, going house to house in south Chicago to get signatures for different candidates. Many blocks were composed of democrats and minorities, but would hold a few strongly conservative and angry families. It remains one of the few experiences were I was told to “go back to my country”, I could not imagine what it would be like to grow up with that hate and anger surrounding you. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Reply
    Emma Whaley
    Emma WhaleyNov 7, 2020
    Thank you for sharing your story Professor Lyles. I cannot imagine what this would be like to experience at any age, let alone as a child. To begin, I would agree with Jyah that, according to Frisby v Schultz, you and your family’s home was constitutionally protected based on the state interest in protecting and preserving the sanctity of the home. I would also possibly use some of the provisions held constitutional in Madsen (ex. 36 ft buffer zone) to explain why those intruders/neighbors didn’t have the ability to use their “free speech” argument because it doesn’t burden any more speech than necessary to accomplish the government’s interests, like ensuring public safety, property rights of citizens, and residential privacy. I would also like to comment on the part of your post where you described how this behavior lasted for a few weeks and that no white kids were ever allowed to play with you. I think, in considering the timing of your move (four years post Brown v Board decision), that this disapproval of blockbusting and not allowing children of different colors to play together, describes one of the external limits of the Supreme Court, that they have to rely on Congress and executive officials to enforce their decisions. I think this because, by then, Brown v Board would’ve been in effect for at least four years, giving ample amount of time for society to take this court decision and adapt to its anti-segregation policies, however, discrimination, segregation, and prejudice still existed and still exists today! We can see that during this time, congress and the executive branch did not necessarily want to follow and enforce Brown v Board to the fullest extent they could’ve.
    Reply
    Jyah Vora
    Jyah VoraOct 29, 2020
    Professor Lyles, thank you for sharing your story. I can’t even fathom what it would be like living in the most segregated city in the country at this time, especially being a young child and not quite understanding the world around you. I firmly believe that you and your family’s home should have been a safe place and others did not have the right not have intruded on your residential privacy (as ruled in Frisby v. Schultz). I know the struggle all too well of being outcasted and excluded. I am half Indian, a quarter Black, and a quarter white, and I’ve struggled in the past with my identity given that I “don’t look like” my ethnicities.

    By the way, I am interested in reading the full blog post, however, I think the link is broken
    Reply
    Jazlynn Williams
    Jazlynn WilliamsMay 8, 2020
    358: Thank you for sharing your story. This reminded me of Shelley v Kraemer. Unfortunately, your experience is no different from others who have faced a similar fate when moved into a white neighborhood where your family is not welcomed. It is as you said in class about Newton’s third law for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction. The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination when a family shows interest in a home but that does not mean the residents of that neighborhood would be okay with a new family of an ethnic group moving in. Thus, homes would be ‘burned out’ as your mother said back then.
    Reply
    Sara Shatat
    Sara ShatatMay 8, 2020
    While the Fair Housing Act of course prohibits discrimination and exclusion, it does directly address scenarios like these in which outside, cultural reinforcement is needed. All the acts in the world could be passed but it would not necessarily change how people act and treat others, particularly treat black people. To terrorize someone, a family nonetheless, for doing nothing more than having the audacity to exist near you is horrible and pathetic, but what’s worse is your experience was not unique.
    Reply
    Nicole Solayman
    Nicole SolaymanMay 3, 2020
    Thank you for sharing. I think your story is indicative of how pervasive racism is within the United States. To so many people, nothing else mattered but the color of someone’s skin, and so often it led to senseless violence and terrorism to Black families. It wasn’t exclusive towards school or jobs, but to housing, grocery stores, public transit, and who you can play with.
    Reply
    Snigdha Sharma
    Snigdha SharmaApr 30, 2020
    Thank you for telling us about your experiences Professor Lyles, often times one can read about the socioeconomic, psychological, etc. effects of racial segregation when it comes to housing, but reading about a personal account from a first person point of view completely changed the game. I gained some semblance of how these afflictions affected you and your family personally to the extent that it became a recurring point of reflection in your life. After reviewing Shelly v. Kraemer in class it became clear to me that this case’s precedent regarding private covenants may have had a lot to do with your family being the sole black family on the block. It’s hard for me to gauge that as a young child you were witness to so much that you probably weren’t even able to comprehend until you got older. I really appreciate this insightful account that allowed me remember the actual people these cases involved rather than simply the legal ramifications because of the desensitization that can occur after continuously learning about the many atrocities African Americans have had to endure.
    Reply
    Rama Izar
    Rama IzarApr 22, 2020
    358: Thank you for sharing your story, Professor. It’s clear how legalized private covenants (from Shelly v. Kraemer) influenced the fact that your family was the only Black family on the entire block. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to witness your dad and uncle defend you and your family. It’s so hard to comprehend the fact that these private covenants affecting housing are STILL legal to this date.
    Reply
    Anthony Sikorski
    Anthony SikorskiApr 20, 2020
    358: Thank you for sharing this personal story which helps us see just how recent some of the material we are reading about was. The case that stuck out to me was Shelley v. Kraemer. You mentioned how your family was the first black family on your block. If the block decided to have had a racially restrictive covenant, saying they will refuse to sell their house to anyone black, you would have no legal recourse. However, the state would not be able to enforce this covenant.
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    Nadeen Elsayed
    Nadeen ElsayedApr 6, 2020
    POLS 358: I’m really glad you’ve shared this story with us, it honestly helps so much to grasp the severity of this all. You think you can understand the emotions or psychological aspects just by reading all of these cases and assume, but this tends to shed more light on how people truly felt in these traumatic times. The first case that came to mind and clicked with your story was Sweatt v. Painter, since it involved allowed African Americans to attend graduate and professional schools. Thanks to this case, this allowed you to obtain your BA, MA and phD. It’s really inspirational to know you were the only African American student in your graduate program.
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    Haneen Abdelhafez
    Haneen AbdelhafezApr 5, 2020
    358: Thank you for sharing your story professor. This picture and extensive details really helped me visualize the reality of what your family and countless others were going through. As discussed last week, Shelly v. Kraemer was a restrictive covenant case, where agreements between private individuals were made. The court held (in 1948), that the enforcements of the racially restrictive covenants in state court violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Another case that this story relates to is Sweatt v. Painter, which was a landmark case that overruled Plessy, but only in a very limited manner involving graduate and professional school. This is the very case which allowed you to obtain your BA, MA, and phD from top universities. I find it extremely inspirational and honorable that you were “the one” black graduate student in your graduate program.
    Reply
    Henry Jiang
    Henry JiangApr 1, 2020
    That was a great story to read, professor. I really enjoyed it. In regards to POLS 358, the first thing that came to my mind when I reread this story was the Shelley v. Kraemer case we had just read, which prevented states from enforcing restrictive housing covenants on the basis of race. That case was ruled in 1948, and thus, anything after that, you and your family were allowed to choose and live in the house of your choice, without any state restrictions. Further, this story also relates to the Brown vs BOE and Sweatt vs painter, in which you were allowed to attend the schools in your area without any racial restrictions, and furthermore, allowed you to attend the top rated universities to earn your BA and MA thanks to the Sweatt case.
    Reply
    Julio Hernandez
    Julio HernandezNov 5, 2019
    Thank you for sharing your story professor. During this time your family had to enduring these racial slurs along with someone almost setting your house on fire. In the Frisby v Shultz ruling, it would have granted your family safety. Since these people were literally standing outside your house, trying to burn it and also stating racial slurs at your residence. If Frisby v Shultz would have occurred and ruled a year prior to your family moving in, the court could have ruled another way or it could have provided your family safeguard.
    Reply
    Diana Alvarado
    Diana AlvaradoNov 5, 2019
    What your new neighbors did to you and your family is sickening. Moreover, the Frisby v. Shultz ruling would have served as a reference to safeguard your family. The fact that they were throwing stones and set a trash can on fire on your private property would have been problematic to a court since it is putting your family in danger. You and your family are a “captive audience” in your home which leaves no way for you guys to avoid the racial slurs they were yelling out.
    Reply
    Ines Josefina Castaneda
    Ines Josefina CastanedaNov 5, 2019
    Throughout the course we have seen how when it comes to defending the rights of black people or controversial topics one is mostly going to stemped to be silenced. Sadly this pattern is repeating today but with a different race added into the mix. It is sad to see that it things haven’t changed but I for one am not surprised.
    Reply
    Jeanine Saleh
    Jeanine SalehNov 5, 2019
    The story really does remind me of the time and place discussion we had in class. A time of accepted racism, although hat is still the case now. If Frisby vs Shultz had happened before you moved into the home maybe the outcome could have been more different, leaving you and your family more protected.
    Reply
    Marissa Scavelli
    Marissa ScavelliNov 5, 2019
    I am taking a Fair Housing course and which covers the Fair Housing Act, segregation and discrimination extensively. So I recently learned that Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the US, which is not surprising but is not so obvious when your downtown in the loop. Nonetheless, it is true and it was set up this way on purpose by corrupt and racist government officials who ran Chicago in the 1950’s/60’s (probably even before that). One way the people (government officials/agencies, real estate agents, citizens) kept Chicago racially segregated was through blockbusting. Blockbusting was a phenomenon occurring all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. It was illegal to deny the sale or rental of property to anyone based on their race, according to the Fair Housing Act so blockbusting was kind of like a way around it. African American people were able to purchase housing wherever they pleased if they could afford it, so black families started moving into “white” neighborhoods. But real estate agents and others would put fear into the white people living in these neighborhoods convincing them to sell their houses at lower rates. In turn, the real estate agencies would sell the property to black families at inflated rates. For instance, real estate agents/agencies would scare the white people residing in the neighborhoods by alerting them that the neighborhood is “changing” and thus convincing them that they should sell their property before their property values decrease. It was an inherently manipulative process that occurred all over Chicago for a very long time and it is one reason why our city is still so racially segregated today.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Kevin Lyles
    Great comment. Have you also explored the FHA polices at this time regarding race, etc.
    Nov 5, 2019•Delete
    Marissa Scavelli
    Marissa Scavelli
    I think so… we have covered the 7 protected classes, restrictive covenants, who can sue under FHA and what is illegal under FHA. We’ve also reviewed several cases in relation.
    Nov 5, 2019•Delete
    Kevin Lyles
    Daniel Garcia
    Daniel GarciaNov 5, 2019
    354: While there is nothing unconstitutional about the terrible things that were said about you and your family, it still does not make it right in any way whatsoever. What I do think should have been a major problem was the actions your block took in throwing burning trash cans onto YOUR yard and saying nasty things in front of YOUR house. As we saw in Frisby v. Schultz, you can’t go and protest/voice displeasure about a person in front of their house. Unfortunately, that case did not take place until 1988. The incidents at hand took place when you were a child in the 1960’s.
    Reply
    Sylvia Waz
    Sylvia WazNov 4, 2019
    In the case Madsen v.Women’s Health Center, it ruled that speech was not protected if it abridged the privacy of someone’s home. This case was decided in 1994, after your story took place but based off of this decision, it is unconstitutional to have people invading and causing a danger to you and your home. These people were violating you and your family’s rights to liberties guaranteed in the constitution such as threatening your pursuit of happiness of choosing where you want to live freely and even threatening your lives. Even though there was no court case to back the constitutionality of these people’s actions, it was still unconstitutional to threaten your rights and liberties.
    Reply
    Henry Jiang
    Henry JiangNov 4, 2019
    Excellent story, professor. I thought it was well written and super engaging. In Frisby vs Schultz, for example, the Court held that a Wisconsin statute that prohibited protest outside of a residential home is constitutional. However, this case was ruled in 1988, which was years after you and your family moved into the new home. If the case had been established prior to your move in, then those “white” people cannot protest in front of your home and tell you to leave. I do not know how the police would deal with this situation since the case had not been established until 1988.
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    Philip Garza
    Philip GarzaNov 4, 2019
    Thank you for sharing your story with us professor. In regards to the speech itself there was nothing constitutionally wrong. Socially yes, but from a constitutional standpoint no, which I think has a lot to do with the time in history. However the fact that private property is involved is where I feel in this situation was wrong as well as in RAV and I don’t think the law was properly applied by the court. You have free speech not the freedom to be on someones property without being granted access as well as potentially causing danger/ damage to ones property. Racist speech is deemed unacceptable by the vast majority of us, but what about those who don’t find it unacceptable? I think in a lot of these cases we’ve been reading in regards to free speech/expression it is a good example of how the courts are a way to protect majority tyranny against minority opinion.
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    Abedal Arman
    Abedal ArmanNov 4, 2019
    359: Being part of a democracy means voting and participating. When one marginalized group can not vote, certain legislators can pass laws against marginalized groups easier. When everyone has an equal chance of voting for their legislator, they have that individual as their representative and it will meet everyones issues more democratically.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 3, 2019
    354: If racist bigots were standing on your front yard yelling the n-word, it is protected speech. In the case of RAV v. St Paul, the Court validated racism as an opposing “viewpoint” that should not be punished and is protected by the 1st Amendment. Unless they were to cause “bodily harm” as stated in Virginia v. Black, these people are technically allowed to say these hateful things. These cases happened years after you left this home.

    359: Access to voting is a huge issue for marginalized groups. As we discussed in class throughout many cases, the Black community, although “technically” allowed to vote, have been prevented from doing so due to the fear of violence (US v. Cruikshank), the constitutionalization of literacy tests and poll taxes, and other forms of non-explicit discrimination that primarily impacted the Black community. If you don’t have access to the franchise and others do, it creates an intentional, unequal, dynamic of power that primarily benefits privileged communities.
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    Anthony Sikorski
    Anthony SikorskiNov 3, 2019
    354: Per Frisby v. Schultz, if a group were to protest in front of your home, that would not be protected speech. In this case, the court ruled that regulations against this are content neutral. They make a distinction between protesting in public and protesting in public but targeting a specific residence. However, this case occurred years after you left this home, so, you would most likely not have any recourse back then. I am doubtful that the police would cite anyone for breaching the peace or disorderly conduct during this time period.

    359: Access to voting can definitely hinder the day to day experiences of marginalized groups. We elect legislators to represent us, our district, our area. If a certain group living in an area is unable/prevented from voting while the other group in the area can vote, this creates a sort of monopoly. You are being represented by someone you had no chance to elect/not elect.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 3, 2019
    Looking at R.A.V. v. St Paul, if bigots were standing on the sidewalk in front of your home yelling the n-word, I hate to break it, but it is freedom of speech*, and I agree with the Court’s decision. However, freedom of speech does not protect you from the social consequences of what you say. I would have zero respect for anyone who chooses to do anything along the lines of what those white neighbors did. If I were a private employer and I found out that any employee of mine was engaging in these sorts of activities, I would immediately fire that person’s ass. No ifs, not buts.

    I also noticed in your blog post that the neighbors not only yelled racial slurs but allow threw rocks at the windows and burning paper into the yard. Today, these would be considered hate crimes and rightfully so. In fact, throwing burning paper on another person’s yard would constitute an aggravated offense due to the fact that the fire could’ve easily spread to the house and endangered the lives of both you and your family.

    I really sympathize with you and your experiences and as an Asian-American, I admit that I’ll never be able to personally relate to the kinds of oppression and violence African-Americans have faced all the way up to and even past the Civil Rights era. Yes, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment, but these still do not compare to the level of violence and oppression African-Americans have had to face since this nation’s founding.

    God bless you and your family, Dr. Lyles.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted user
    Even today, Chicago is still the most segregated city in America. Symptoms of institutionalized racism (such as redlining) are still very much prevalent today.
    Nov 3, 2019•Delete
    Kevin Lyles
    Tolu Odueyungbo
    Tolu OdueyungboMay 6, 2019
    I enjoyed reading your story, it put into perspective an example of the many instances we’ve read about during the civil rights movement. Also including photos also helps to visualize the reality of what happened to you and many other people.
    Reply
    Bill Rohm
    Bill RohmApr 23, 2019
    I second Binjal in thanking you for sharing your story with us. I think your experience shows what is one of the most insidious aspects of racism: the impact that it has on the lives of children. At a point in your life where you shouldve been free to get lost in the world of G.I. Joe and Hot wheels, you had to worry about being attacked by a deranged mob. It also proves once again that, while it did not have the segregation regime of Jim Crow, Chicago could be every bit as violent and bigoted as Alabama and Mississippi. We continue to live with the effects of blockbusting today: places like Englewood are their legacy. As you said in your remarks on Shelley v. Kramer, by the time the law began to challenge segregated housing (both de jure and de facto) its supporters had largely achieved their goal: housing was segregated. While people are less racist than they used to be, white flight is still a common phenomenon. To be honest, I dont know what the solution to the problem of segregated housing is; I just know it depresses the heck out of me.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Kevin LylesApr 15, 2019
    “But Not Next Door”: The Controversy over Racially Segregated Housing
    Housing segregation continues to be a major issue in America. Segregation in housing holds important implications: the education of students in public and private school, job opportunities, and even the selection of friends and mates. For the most part, however, where people live is determined by the forces controlling the private housing market. But public housing authorities have not been without significant influence. Exacerbating the problem has been the acceptance by many whites of a number of myths regarding the residential behavior of minority groups, particularly African Americans. Commonly shared views that property values drop and neighborhoods deteriorate when African Americans move in have generally been accepted as truisms by frightened whites. Hence, when the phenomenon of “blockbusting” occurs and one African American family moves in, almost immediately homes on that block and in that neighborhood are put on the market by fleeing whites.” Source: Barker and Lyles, Civil Liberties and the Constitution, 9th edition, p. 579-580.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 15, 2019
    Thank you for sharing your stories. Reading your stories really puts into perspective the human experiences and consequences of the cases and acts we discuss in class. Too often we discuss serious cases with serious consequences in class however, it is brushed off as a horrible moment in history. Your stories have allowed us to understand the real life experiences.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 12, 2018
    Thanks for sharing. I can’t say I can relate to the severity or length of time your story details, but I distinctively remember being kept from school and not going to school for days and weeks after September 11th. That was very strange to four year old me, and as you’d mentioned my usually doting and calm parents were pretty short and firm in their declarations.

    Serious question: Have any of the white children from your block ever made attempts to contact you since?
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 3, 2018
    I really enjoy personal stories like this. It always brings me back that these are cases and histories have real life consequences and effect real people’s lives. This story is similar to my father’s story, when he and the rest of our family moved to America, they settled in a mostly white suburb of Boston, I remember my dad telling me that they frequently were harassed, spit on, and had people come to their house to tell them to leave, and not nicely. One thing that has always stuck with me is , is when he told me that they always kept a pot of hot water boiling, just incase they ever had any intruders. I can’t imagine living in that sort of fear. Thank you for sharing this story with us, it reminds us that these stories are all too common.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 1, 2018
    Professor Lyles thank you for sharing your story with us! Reading this well-written touching story. I liked when you describe ” the block club welcoming party”, that must have been a terrifying experience for someone who was so young at the time. I can share your experience with being the first blockbuster on the block. When my family moved from the south side to the north side of Chicago, our first day we experienced ” block club welcome party ” , they barricade us from entering the block saying that we did not belong because ” spics and beaners don’t live here ” and it was terrifying for me as eight years old . So I can understand the struggle you and your family faced. I think we like to think Chicago is an amazingly diverse city but in reality, we are still most segregated cities in the country, and as a city, we have this mentality that certain sections of the cities are for certain groups and if new people move into another groups area they don’t belong and should get out.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 23, 2018
    I really enjoyed reading your blog and I think it was beautifully written. I liked the phrase, “most of my formal education, like the walls in our first new house, was freshly painted white”. I was wondering what you meant by this phrase. Did you mean academically, you knew stuff but in terms of the history of African Americans you were less informed because you were only taught what schools wanted you to know? Do you plan on making this a book, possibly an autobiography because it would make an excellent read! Thank you for sharing this experience!
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 22, 2018
    Thank your sharing your story with us! You mention that your neighbors were people who taught they were white, what were their ethnicity? Your families experience is very telling of how diverse in ethnicity, but segregated neighborhoods in Chicago are because African Americans are tormented for moving into a non-white neighborhood. If you do not mind me asking, what neighborhood did you grow up in? In the picture, the school reminds me of Fenger High School on the far southside.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Kevin Lyles
    Hi Sensahra. Thanks for the comment. I think I should probably change that phrase “who thought they were white.” I see how it could be confusing. I am borrowing that phrase from Ta-Nehisi Coates in his book “Between the World and Me.” The short answer is all the neighbors were white. But Coates and others have argued there is no such thing as “white” so people who adopt this identification merely “think” they are as a way of maintaining white supremacy. Coates writes about people “who have been brought up to hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, believe they are white (p. 7). In other words, “whiteness” is a “child of racism.” The short answer is all the neighbors were “white.” That is, if you believe in whiteness as a real “thing.”
    Mar 22, 2018•Delete
    Deleted user
    Deleted user
    I have been interested in reading “Between the World and Me”! Now I feel more inclined to get a copy. Thank you so much!
    Mar 22, 2018•Delete
    Kevin Lyles
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 12, 2017
    The theme of discrimination appears to still ,unfortunately, be a common one. I am of the thinking that discrimination is taught. You yourself didn’t understand why you were shunned by the other kids on the block and those kids only knew to shun you because they were taught to by their parents. The effort required to combat ideas is immense and arduous. One can understand why those oppressed would respond to violence with violence but it rarely leads to a better outcome. In this modern age, the pen has become mightier than the sword.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 9, 2017
    As I read this piece, I thought of what I had learned in my African American Incarceration class. In that class we learned about how segregated a city Chicago was and still is. We learned how things like redlining and racial steering were common practices taken real estate agents. These acts became unconstitutial, but still continued to take place. I found this piece to be extremely interesting, and I thank you for sharing.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Kevin Lyles
    Hi Lauren. What is the “African American Incarceration” class? Is it Soc, AASt or CLJ? Also, if you have an interest in this material, I strongly encourage you to take PolS 358 in the spring.
    Nov 12, 2017•Edit•Delete
    Deleted user
    Deleted user
    Hi Professor, It is a sociology class I took fall semester of last year
    that was very informative and I really enjoyed it. I am currently enrolled
    to take 356 and 358 in the spring, I look forward to learning more abut it.
    Nov 12, 2017•Delete
    Kevin Lyles
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 9, 2017
    Professor thank you for sharing your story with us!
    Your phrase -“Schools do not reveal truths, they conceal them” is very relevant to me. In class, you ones said that I made a lot of comparison of the U.S. law to laws in Europe and particularly Russian and Ukraine. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all lived through horrors of Soviet occupation that brought persecution for anyone who was agreeing with the Communist regime. For Ukrainians, who as many other ethnic groups in the Soviet Union tried to break away and establish its own country, Soviet Union regime responded with a genocide in 1933-34 and ethnic cleansing (until early 1960). Later when my mum was going to school she was thought that Soviets saved everyone -Ukrainians, Latvians, Moldavians, Uzbeks, Armenians, Georgians, and others. There was never a mention of genocide or other crimes of the government. The Communist government tried to hide the truth by rewriting history books. However, unfortunately, many countries write history books as they would like to regather that what is true. In my opinion, U.S. also conceals the truth in the history of African American and Native American treatment. I came to U.S. when I as in 10th grade and I was surprised how little we thought about history of African Americans, civil rights movement, and Native Americans. Until I took your class African American legal history, I like many, though that president Lincoln was a hero.
    Thank you for being a professor who is teaching the truth and not ignoring the truth.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 9, 2017
    This is true history right here. We can Read books about civil rights, listen to speeches, analyze notable events, but how can an individual truly make a connection to history without understanding the perspective of someone on your level. Now i will never dare give you that ” I know how it feels” because i will never truly be able to put myself in your shoes but i do have enough sense to know that you are a part of history. Your story is a part of history, one that every should learn.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 8, 2017
    “Schools do not reveal truths, they conceal them” has been the theme of my experience at UIC since spring semester 2016. I am being empowered and rejected at the same time. I am taught reasons to stand up for myself but when I do UIC has drawn the line for me that they are not to be held accountable. So learning to unlearn myths I’ve been taught hits home.

    The best professor’s usually have been through hell so I appreciate you sharing your personal experience with us. It re-enforces the idea that the process of academia doesn’t just happen within labs and lecture halls. It can happen just by learning to be self aware of your own traumas and recognizing that this situation can mirror someone else’s experience. The hard part comes when you have to learn to balance and accept the knowledge you learn in school vs. real life. The most important part is what you do with that knowledge.
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    Parya
    ParyaNov 8, 2017
    I really appreciate this piece. It’s one to thing to read and watch videos in history class of what was going on during the civil rights movement, but it’s another thing to see and hear your own professor share their story on what they had to experience. Not only does it put into perspective the fact that the movement wasn’t too long ago, but the piece also gives some insight on a child’s point of view during the time. I somewhat related to the piece because my parents and I had to escape Iran when I was 2 because we follow a minority religion. And while I don’t remember much from Iran, I was always confused as to why I wasn’t given the same rights or treated like the others there. And once we got to the US, 9/11 happened a few years later while we were living in a “white” suburban neighborhood and I ended up being treated with a different type of discrimination throughout the years. The line, “Why was everyone so angry, so mad?” is something no child should have to ponder. Thank you for sharing your story and serving as an inspiration.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 8, 2017
    Very moving piece. This is a background story that is common, especially in a city as historically segregated as Chicago. However, the outcome is different that most of the similar stories, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment to be proud of. Perseverance is, in my opinion, of the best traits to have.
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    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 8, 2017
    This is a story told by many people though few can hold that they not only challenged the then norm but also excelled in it. It also adds a level to the narrative that without the authors parents the people threatening them would not have the right to do so.
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    Christopher Nevarez
    Christopher NevarezNov 7, 2017
    I am currently taking a course on race and diversity. After reading this piece, I can’t help but notice that you make reference to the thought of being “white” twice. In my race and diversity class, we constantly make a mockery of the term “black” and “white”. Similar to you, we acknowledge the fact that these two terms do little to actually describe the skin color of two groups, but instead they serve to place both groups on opposite ends of a spectrum. The color black is many times associated with death, impurity and evil, while white is associated with life, purity and all things holy. So this phenomenon of teaching people that they are “white”, is a result of this need to distinguish “us” from “them”. This system of division only serves to further perpetuate racism, hatred and bigotry.
    Reply
    Kevin Lyles
    Kevin Lyles
    I invite you to take my PolS 358 class in the spring so we can explore this further.
    Nov 7, 2017•Edit•Delete
    Kevin Lyles
    Patrick Scaletta
    Patrick ScalettaNov 7, 2017
    “Integrating what I learned alone in the “stacks of libraries,” with what I learned growing up on the South-side of Chicago is increasingly irreconcilable.” – Are the things you have learned, in both your personal experiences and in your education, really irreconcilable or does those things actually make perfect sense?
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 7, 2017
    This line struck me in particular, “most of my formal education, like the walls in our first new house was freshly painted white.” The refusal of the U.S. to significantly atone or acknowledge its past, and present, has led to numerous justifications for racial discrimination being created over the years, many of which we continue to see used in arguments today: “It was Americans’ ‘Manifest Destiny’ to ‘conquer’ the Native Americans;” “Black people in America are better off than they would be Africa. Enslaving them must have been a good thing;” “Blacks are on welfare, in jail, etc. because they are [insert white supremacist belief here].” Like sloppy coats of white paint layered on top of the old, these ideas are perpetually whitewashed in order to be slightly more palatable; but when these layers of old paint, toxic and unsightly, are painted over instead of scraped away, the cracks and rot can still be seen.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 7, 2017
    Wow. Very powerful piece. The metaphor of the “freshly painted white walls” really illuminates the message. Further, the quote “why was everyone so angry, so mad?” puts the moral confusion of the societal issue into question.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userNov 3, 2017
    First of all, thank you for sharing this story; one that has clearly stood out to you even after all of these years. Today, we learn about the discrimination that occurred when people of color moved into “all-white” neighborhoods and later the white flight, but you actually lived it. You saw it in your every day life, and I’m truly sorry that people were so hateful back then. Even today, there are people that still maintain those terrible ideals and go on to teach their kids to think the same way. I’m extremely happy that you are here today to teach us and share experiences like this because it really puts it into perspective that these things did not happen all that long ago.
    “The older I get, the more time I spend struggling to unlearn the myths I was taught,” is a statement that you made toward the end of your story that really stood out to me and I can see that it stood out to previous commenters as well. We all grow up learning different things whether they be right or wrong and it is truly hard to break bad habits and old ways of thinking. But I am hopeful that one day everyone will be treated equally and with the same amount of respect as, I believe, everyone deserves.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 4, 2017
    It is evident that your childhood experience of growing up on the Southside and experiencing violence and ambiguity contributed to your inquisitions later in your adult life and your realization of the unique place you found yourself in society and the subsequent obligation you embodied to share your knowledge with society.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 3, 2017
    It’s funny because I also went to schools where I learned “history” that concealed the truth or greatly watered down what actually happened. When I got to college, I took advantage of learning taking African American history classes that were not offered in any previous institution that I attended and began to research history on my own. Classes such as this class where you learn the truth about many historical inaccuracies that were taught in many standard history textbooks encourages me to spread the knowledge that I have learned to many of my peers and encourage them to research history. It also encourages me to do more research on history myself.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userApr 1, 2017
    Thank you Prof. Lyles for sharing this incredibly moving and personal story with us. Like everyone else, I agree that unfortunately this is something we still relate to and I believe we will relate to for a long time till our education institutes are restructured. This is also a global phenomena, where nations impose nationalist propaganda onto the nation’s young minds. On March 26, 1971, Pakistan declared a civil war in Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan), what was to follow was essentially genocide of the Bengalis. To this day, Pakistan and Pakistanis refuse to acknowledge the genocide that took place, it is unfortunate that their government refuses to share and accept the truth or allow their citizens the freedom to seek this truth.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 29, 2017
    Thank you for sharing!
    The previous posters made really great points. Brown v. Board really I think paved the way for a more open-minded society. Going to school with the same skin color, same ethnic background classmates does not allow for a diverse mindset and keep us close-minded. The same mindset is true for your neighbors when you moved in your new home. As time went on, acceptance of each other became the norm.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 27, 2017
    This blog really emphasizes the importance of Brown v. Board of Education. The overall result is more significant and serves a greater importance to the lives of people of color. It attacked the problem from it’s roots.

    “The older I get, the more time I spend struggling to unlearn the myths I was taught (and now sometimes teach). Integrating what I learned alone in the “stacks of libraries,” with what I learned growing up on the South-side of Chicago is increasingly irreconcilable.”

    As stated by Jason, this is something that holds true and continues to be held true today. Many people in our generation can also relate, and the fact that we can relate shows that very little is being done about the myths we are taught.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 27, 2017
    “The older I get, the more time I spend struggling to unlearn the myths I was taught (and now sometimes teach). Integrating what I learned alone in the “stacks of libraries,” with what I learned growing up on the South-side of Chicago is increasingly irreconcilable.”

    This still holds true today, I find previous knowledge attained throughout my educational career to contradict things I learn from scholarly articles and those who were a part of the “losing side”. The educational system within the United States is an absolute joke which pushes propaganda in order for students to develop an ideology that the United States is the best country in the world. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with pushing patriotism since it is crucial for students to support their country in order to care for it and work towards a better future. On the other hand, however, suppressing certain historical events to achieve patriotism results in a patriotism towards a country built on lies. Patriotism can be achieved without stressing the greatness of one’s country, but rather stressing the faults in order develop patriotism leading to citizens moving forward rather than sideways.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 30, 2016
    I remember experiencing a brainwashing when I was young. Being born in a third world country, I was able to experience and live amongst the poor. I went to a private elementary school, and was always forbidden to play with kids that lived in the farm. At a young age, my guardian and my friends’ parents talked about how the kids should not mixed with each other. I thought this was odd, and I found myself hiding from my guardian, just to play with the poor kids. They had the most fun of the simplest things, and by doing so, I was able to play with dirt, and not think of the divide between the middle class and the low class. However, you can’t just “conceal” it, when the concealer used is an obvious wall that divided the rich subdivisions and poor subdivisions, and the dirty creek that served as a barrier between the two social groups.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 30, 2016
    This blog post was one of those ones that makes you think about your own childhood and your first times seeing your parents do things or act a certain way.

    I really enjoyed it! It was captivating, and the white walls phrase was really great. When you look at things through the eyes of a child the world seems like a different place.

    It also reminded me that I have not read Coates book yet and I need to get on that.
    Reply
    Deleted user
    Deleted userMar 28, 2016
    The post is emblematic of the importance of Brown v. Board of Education, and how attacking elementary school segregation served a greater purpose than simply making those of different races attend the same school: It attacked a root cause of the indoctrination of bigotry. In the piece, Lyles mentions that he was largely unaware of racial violence (at the age of 5) prior to his family being the first to move to an all-white block. The age of 5 is also roughly around the age when children first begin to attend school.

    In the post he states, “As a child I always thought I was a smart. Not because I necessarily earned good grades, but because my parents kept telling me I was smart.” Although the context is somewhat different, the gist of the quote holds the same: Children are prone to believe that which they are shown or told. Arguably, many white students the same age as Lyles when he first moved to his home on the all-white block may have similarly been unaware of race and racial violence. Entering segregated schools, however, possibly indoctrinated them in the belief that blacks were somehow inferior and thus could not attend the same school as whites. In other words, segregated schools first taught them racial difference. By desegregating schools, Brown v. Board of Education II effectively removed a key mode of racial indoctrination. However, as mentioned in the post, the education oftentimes was still “painted white.”

    As the actions of some of Lyles’ “white” neighbors demonstrate, parental indoctrination was largely unaffected by Brown–if not even further enflamed in some instances. However, effectively desegregating residential areas, as Lyles’ family did, is one way to possibly combat this. Lyles may be able to answer this, but I wonder if there was any restrictive covenant operating in the neighborhood prior to the move-in. Also, thank you Professor Lyles for sharing this with us.

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