Chicago's Feel Good Hypocrisy: Renaming Lake Shore Drive

Have you heard? Chicago is set to rename its legendary Lake Shore Drive to DuSable Drive, in honor of Jean Baptiste Point duSable.  DuSable, an African American, is credited with being Chicago's first permanent settler.

The move, of course, reflects feel good, do-nothing hypocrisy at its worst.

For starters, DuSable no more "founded" Chicago than Christopher Columbus "discovered" America.  In both cases Native Americans were here long before.

In fact, "Chicago" is an Indian word that means -- I kid you not -- stinky onion.

Lake Shore Drive (photo credit: R Boed CC BY 2.0 license

Also, neither DuSable nor Columbus stuck around after their "discoveries."  In DuSable's case, he eventually high-tailed it for Missouri.

Yet the woke crowd that criticizes Columbus and demands we celebrate Indigenous People's Day, now embraces more honors for DuSable as Chicago's first permanent settler.

And anyone who dares question the move is “racist?” Chicago Alderman David Moore, the sponsor of the ordinance, said any opposition is “some racist bull____.”

Alderman Jeanette Taylor said opposing it “just seems real racist to me,” and Alderman Vazquez Taylor said, “I agree this is absolutely racist.”

That’s the state of public discourse today and what passes as political leadership, facts be damned.  And sadly it works.  Use the “R” word -- “Racist” -- and the debate is over, and you win. 

At the committee hearing Black Heroes Matter leader Ephraim Martin spoke and said, “Because of the color of his skin, DuSable was not properly honored.”

Really?

Assuming facts matter, DuSable already has a high school, harbor, bridge, side streets, and park named after him here in Chicago.  Of course, there is also the famed DuSable Museum of African American History in the city. His bust is on Michigan Avenue. The U.S. Postal Service even issued a stamp in his honor.

There is also talk of establishing a city holiday in his honor and erecting a 25-foot-tall monument of him in Chicago's Grant Park. 

But why stop there?  

Isn’t it racist not to rename the entire city DuSable?  In fact, to purge our racism, everything should be DuSable.  

Let’s fly into DuSable Airport and take the DuSable Expressway -- not the “Kennedy” -- into downtown DuSable, where we can then go view paintings by mostly old, dead racist white guys at the famed Art Institute of DuSable.

I am sorry, people, but this is dumb.  And it is sad.  And it has little to do with honoring DuSable or addressing racism. 

Only a city on the slide would devote time and resources to hollow, feel-good measures like renaming Lake Shore Drive while failing to solve and largely ignore its real problems like crime, poverty, and school decay. 

It’s like a magician doing a sleight of hand to distract.  DuSable is today’s shiny object, so Chicago's politicians look away from our real problems while glad-handing on renaming efforts. 

Alderman Moore says renaming LSD will give poor Black kids on the south and west sides pride when they drive it. Really?  

What will give them pride is giving them a good education and holding them to rigorous standards so they can rise above and leave their impoverished conditions. Not renaming a street.

I was born and first bred in Gary, Indiana, one of two white kids in an otherwise all Black kindergarten.  Gary has no shortage of tributes to African American leaders, and it was in fact the first “big” city in America to elect a Black mayor. 

And guess what?  All those tributes have done little to help Gary’s kids, the vast majority of whom are African American. Over the years most have, wisely, left for better opportunities and education, with Gary’s population plummeting. 

If Chicago keeps it up and does not address its real problems, Chicago will eventually be like Gary, a decaying city with many tributes to African Americans, but fewer and fewer African Americans actually living there, and for good reason, as they continue to vote with their feet.

As for the merits, Lake Shore Drive is Chicago's most iconic byway. It is Chicago's signature. The name is known worldwide and featured in songs and popular culture.  

Only would a city on the slide take one of its greatest trademarks and trade it in. To be clear, this has nothing to do with DuSable. 

What’s really going on here, if we’re being honest, is political correctness gone awry.

And for those who care about substance, not show, renaming creates no jobs or opportunities and reflects hollow symbolism at its worst.

Renaming a street and cutting a ribbon is easy.  Rolling up your sleeves and addressing real inequities with real solutions and tough love where necessary is hard.  The city of broad shoulders now chooses easy.

Symbols over substance. Symbols over solutions. 

Ironically, courage and dignity would be to vote “no” and maintain Chicago's iconic namesake, Lake Shore Drive, just as it is.  Many things are broken in Chicago and need fixing.

Lake Shore Drive ain’t one of them.

Born and first bred in Gary, Indiana followed by Chicago's south suburbs, William Choslovsky is a lawyer in Chicago and elected local school council member.

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