One Sign Shows the Tragedy That Chicago Has Become for Children


Racial and class segregation has reached a fevered pitch in Chicago, so much so that residents in one majority-Latino and lower-income neighborhood have made an unlikely plea for help.

The sign outside local Kelvyn Park no longer reads as a welcoming symbol for area residents, as it was intended. Now, the park's sign reads: "Wanted: White people to play so the city will take care of this park."

It's a heartbreaking inscription, demonstrating a desperate plea for city officials to focus much needed resources and care toward an otherwise vital, yet government-neglected community resource such as a city park. Sadly, this is a battle some residents don't feel they can win by doing as any other active citizens would, through writing or calling their elected or appointed officials. 

So they're calling on the only group they know will get their local park the attention it deserves: white Chicagoans.

Image Credit: Reddit

According to CBS Chicago, the first online mention of the posting came from Reddit, where one user shared a photo of the sign. It prompted a wave of commentary about the situation in the Hermosa neighborhood, at Kelvyn Park and the city of Chicago at large. The discussion has been mixed.

Some users even noted that whomever wrote the message might wish to rethink what they're asking for.

The situation requires some context. Hermosa neighbors the Logan Square neighborhood, which in recent years has been heavily impacted by rising rental costs, an increase in corporate and housing developments and an influx of whites pushing out minority residents. And unlike other large cities, such as New York or Los Angeles, Chicago has no form of rent control — prompting some residents to organize and fight against the hostile takeover based on analysis from the Chicago Reporter

But will white people coming to play at Kelvyn Park actually make the situation better?

If Chicago's worsening economic politics have any influence in the matter, probably not. That's especially since the city's beleaguered mayoral administration faces an uphill reelection battle in early 2015.

Currently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handling of the economy and gun violence issues has earned him a disappointing 29% support rate from likely voters in the early 2015 election, based on a poll conducted in May by the Chicago Sun-Times. Various reports have pinned the city's worsening economic situation on Emanuel, with some having dubbed him "Mayor 1%" because he allegedly favors corporate interests over community-sourced needs.

That perception of the city's officials doesn't help matters at a time when roughly five dozen of the city's schools were shuttered, gentrification runs rampant in neighborhoods near Hermosa and the state's financial health remains so dismal that Illinois ranks number one for states where residents wish to flee.

It's not at all unreasonable for a poor, minority city-dweller to feel that someone's whiteness or residence in a majority-white neighborhood could mean their public accommodations are better maintained and easier to access. Whereas predominately white neighborhoods likely have enough of an influx of cash and property tax revenue to keep their public facilities in pristine conditions, the same can't be said for areas such as Kelvyn Park, where the people experience disparate conditions that no taxpaying city residents should ever have to endure. 

So unless Chicago officials step in and give Kelvyn Park a little TLC, it's probably unlikely that white kids playing hopscotch and hopping on the park's see-saws will help make the situation better anytime soon. Until then, a majority-Latino and lower-income neighborhood will just have to cope with subpar recreational conditions.