#968: White Babies

August 17th, 2018

I want to wait until after my kid’s born to post this.

As I write this, it’s early-mid August. My wife and I are in the “any day now, any moment now” phase. She’s sprinting like a madwoman, running every errand, cleaning every surface, complaining all the while that she’s being lazy and lumpy. She’s like that. Good enough is never enough. I admire that in her.

But since we don’t know the moment she’ll get a pain and I’ll get a call, I don’t want to schedule this story yet. I don’t want to look back on the moment of my daughter or son’s birth and have it be the day I posted a story about the hate sign dangling lazily in the first neighborhood my child will know.

My neighborhood is lovely. It has tree-lined streets and older homes. I talk to Julio when he’s out walking Rocky and we ask each other how our wives are — mine due to pregnancy, his due to illness. There are parks and restaurants, great bars and the little independent coffee shop where I get my morning dark roast and bagel. We heard the roar of the Cubs’ World Series win from my then-girlfriend’s window. Hell, the mayor lives a few blocks away and you know that fancy boy wouldn’t live anywhere but in the plushest of plushness.

The morning was lovely too. The barista with the nice smile got me my coffee. There was a scruffly little dog outside and I smiled nicely at it.

I looked right, then left to cross Montrose to get to the train station. That’s when I saw the sign written in block letters on a white bed sheet and hung from the Metra overpass.

“I ♥ WHITE BABIES”

I also love white babies, one in particular that I haven’t met as of this writing but will probably have changed 10,000 diapers of by the time this posts. But we know this message isn’t one of love, but of sheer simpering hatred, a giggling, sniping rodent who took our presidentially ordained culture of smear and used it to justify an attack by omission.

“I ♥ WHITE BABIES”

It was the morning commute, so the sign had been timed for attention, the same as the Patriot Front/Blood and Soil fliers littered at two of my coworkers’ suburban Metra stops a week and a half earlier. Like a herpes outbreak, white supremacy is having a flare-up. Like a herpes outbreak, it’s always there under the surface.

An older woman was standing on a grassy corner across from the overpass. She was on her phone. I walked down the block, crossed the street and talked with her. She was angry, flabbergasted and getting a busy signal from the ward office, which wouldn’t open for an hour.

“I’m surprised to see this in Chicago,” she said. “I guess I shouldn’t be.”

Her name is Becky and she’s my neighbor. Same street but a few blocks away. I’d never seen her before and might not again, these tree-lined streets we walk not always conducive for coincidental run-ins.

Our only memory of each other could be calling the ward office, 311, the Chicago Police, the Metra Police and my wife, who went online and messaged the alderman and ward committeeman.

Becky left a message with 311, but the ward office doesn’t have voicemail. I got the city cops who said to call Metra cops who said they’d send someone by. My wife won the day, getting confirmation about nine minutes before I typed this sentence that the committeeman sent the ward superintendent to take “I ♥ WHITE BABIES” off our morning route.

She said the ward super took a photo to confirm the sign was down, and the committeeman sent it on to her. White Chicago’s racism was invisible once more.

But there’s a rodent in Chicago and it’s probably one of my neighbors. It’s probably one of the neighbors of the little white baby my wife is about to bring into the world.

The rodent scampered above a piss-stained underpass in the night, unfurled a banner saying the secret words it didn’t have the spine to say in daylight and skittered off, giggling and high-fiving itself to own the libs.

Good job, coward. Congratulations, you paper tiger.

Even under the cover of darkness, the simp was not human enough to say the words it meant. Congratulating itself on coyness, excusing a lack of spine, guts and scrote as wordplay, it said what babies it loved with a nod and a wink to the babies it didn’t. Black babies. Brown babies. Babies of every shade and color aside from the Ku Klux Klan whiteness one of my neighbors celebrated under cover of night were not loved, the sign means.

The thing, the it that, infused with the spirit of Donald Trump’s America, hung this banner scampered away from it like a sun-shocked gerbil. In its effort to prove itself racist, it proved itself coward as well.

The sign was as beautifully made as you can get with bed sheet and Sharpie. The letters were uniform and had been blocked and kerned correctly. The rodent took time to do it right.

I love my neighborhood. I love Julio and Rocky, I love Jen and her wife Andrea a few floors up in my building. I love our Indian American alderman, who in 2018 is still the only Asian American ever to sit on the Chicago City Council, and the ward super who climbed a train bridge to rip down a sign. I love Becky now too, an old white woman enraged to the point of action by hate speech she could have just breezed past. This is my home. This is my community, and by the time you read this, the community and home of my own white baby.

I stood with Becky on a grassy corner, wondering how many of my neighbors walking by saw the sign and nodded at it quietly.

The racism of North Side versus South

The better side of North Center

The museum of the Pullman porter

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You are currently reading #968: White Babies by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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