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Zack Isaacs

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Chicago Changes Colors

Posted: 07/06/11 07:18 PM ET

It's the new Great Migration: black Chicagoans are "relocating" to the southern suburbs. Just one week after my blog about the Chicago Sun-Times "Changing Chatham" series, it seems as if some blacks move on if certain folks don't move out. But it's much bigger than a residential issue. Chicago is not what it used to be -- and I think I know the reason why.

Love Don't Live Here Anymore

Crime is actually down in Chicago, but you wouldn't think it was based on recent headlines. It seems as if our city has become the set of a Western film. The funny thing is, I don't see any real cowboys when I walk outside. (Sure, you might see policemen on horses but that's not quite what I mean.) What I see instead is a group of residents who have lost their passion for this city -- especially those of color. They are getting on their horses (climbing in the cars) and galloping off into the "sunset" for the next chapter in their lives.

According to a new article in the Chicago News Cooperative, black families represent the fastest growing ethnic groups in the suburbs. In cities like Matteson and Lansing, the black population grew in record numbers. It seems like "The Promised Land" for people tired of the city life. But you can't escape every problem of life in the suburbs. The crime rate might not be as high, but it's there.

Before you get emotional, please realize that I am not knocking folks who want a better life. But if you can't create a better community where you live, what is the point of moving away to the same problems -- just in smaller quantities? As my momma says, "It's bad everywhere." The key to improving your life is by changing your outlook if you can't change your circumstances. If you don't improve your outlook on life, you will repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

We saw this earlier in the year with wealthy blacks in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Michigan, who could not escape the elements they tried to leave in the city. All it takes is one foreclosed home to bring the kind of people you thought you could move away from. It reminds me of a sermon that my sister's pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, preached when I visited Trinity United Church of Christ last year. His sermon was about Jonah in the Bible who ended up in the belly of a whale trying to flee his calling. The title was quite profound: "You Have To Face It to Fix It."

If you want a better neighborhood, then make your neighborhood better. The bungalows in the city might not be as fancy but they have more sound structure. Plus, the suburbs aren't "walkable." In order to get around those towns, you are going to need a car. Most importantly, living in seclusion only makes the problem worse.

And most of you who may get mad at me for writing this... know that I'm right. Why else do you think the suburbanites are moving back into the city? It's because they figured out that the suburbs don't have less problems -- just different ones.