#931: The Social Justice League

May 23rd, 2018

There’s a comic book shop in Mount Greenwood — a glorious one.

It’s clean and comfortable, well-stocked and knowledgeable. It has the largest assortment I’ve ever seen of a particular line of Doc Savage reprints I’ve been hunting for years and, at least as of last month, had a sign outside declaring that the Chicago Reader was no longer offered there.

The reason, the man inside confirmed for me, was Mount Greenwood’s inclusion in the Reader’s 2017 “Worst of Chicago” issue. Rather than end the year with puffy Chicagoana pop about how great The Bean and Navy Pier are, the free newsweekly went for something with more teeth, calling out everything from the city’s failing recycling program to people who make a big deal over whether you put ketchup on your hot dog.

I provided a piece on people who romanticize Al Capone. Another writer wrote about how much he hated the Mount Greenwood neighborhood. That’s what made the owner of the glorious shop on 111th pull the Reader from his selection and advertise that he did so.

“I was the only one in Mount Greenwood who carried it, and they shit all over Mount Greenwood. Sort of a no-brainer for me,” said the man, who carried the liberal-leaning alternative weekly in his shop for 20 years.

Although I like and admire the Reader and the author of the Mount Greenwood piece very much, I couldn’t defend this story. Mount Greenwood is white and Trump-leaning and, in my mind, politically regressive on a lot of matters. It’s as suburban as you can get and still be within city limits, which is why it’s favored by cops and firefighters to stay within the letter of the law on city residency requirements.

But I felt the article let the rest of the city off the hook. Mount Greenwood’s 87 percent white community should be called out for de facto segregation. Why does the 77 percent white North Center neighborhood where I live get a pass?

I have thoughts on this, and I’ll share them at an appropriate time. Because this story isn’t about Chicago. It’s about the free market.

If you follow comic book trends, you might hear the dog whistle I’m blowing. This random encounter a month ago came to mind because of the current claims of “social justice warriors” conspiring to censor conservative voices in superhero comic books. Google “comicsgate,” ignore the irony that “Justice Warriors” sounds like an awesome superhero team name in of itself and then move on.

I have thoughts, but they’re mine. My major takeaway is that only the government can censor. Businesses are just declining to do business with people they find offensive.

You can do it if you’re a publisher reneging on an agreement to publish a book by a man many (including me) find offensive. You can do it if “Impulse” creator Mark Waid talked you into it. You can do it if you’re a small shop not wanting to act as a conduit for a comic book you feel trashes communities or a free weekly newspaper you feel trashed your neighborhood.

Opinions are not a protected class. You can’t decline to do business with someone because of race, gender, sexuality or religion, but if your issue with someone is what they choose to use their free speech to say, you can tell them with a smile on your face, “I don’t like you. Get out of my shop.”

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You are currently reading #931: The Social Justice League by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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