Equity & Justice

Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Culture, Income, and Justice

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

When it comes to addressing the issue of racial profiling, Illinois has a data collection system that is a model for the nation. However, the state has done little to make use of that information to eliminate the discriminatory practice. 

A 2000 report from the U.S. Department of Justice defines racial profiling as “police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity.”

As the leader of a nonprofit group that helps Latino families in western Lake County, Carolina Duque knows how difficult it can be for poor immigrants to live in the suburbs. The challenges start with the immigrants’ limited ability to speak English and their low levels of schooling. But what makes those problems worse are the barriers that prevent her clients from adapting to their new surroundings. 

As many Illinoisans sing the praises of black men like Barack Obama, it's good to remember the thousands of African-American males whose splintered lives stand in sharp contrast to the high-achieving junior senator from Illinois. Stunted by low school attendance, widespread unemployment and disproportionate rates of incarceration, these men are frequent fixtures on street corners, idle, aimless and as disconnected from mainstream society as a dead cell phone.

Sen. Kwame Raoul wants you to slow down. Be patient. Another batch of data in Illinois' massive study of traffic stops has been released, and this is no time to be jumping to conclusions about how often police engage in racial profiling, the Chicago Democrat says. 

Problem is, he — and plenty of other officials, for that matter — isn't nearly so clear on how long people must wait or just who will dig into the numbers and figure out whether Illinois has a problem.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A decade after federal welfare reform began to move women with children from welfare to work, activists and scholars are turning a spotlight on the plight of America's young black men. 

While women have made some social and economic gains under policies designed to promote work and limit public assistance, young men are losing ground. Black men in particular. Studies released this summer show that, more than any other cohort, black males increasingly are disconnected from school and from work.

Throughout the year, Illinois Issues will publish occasional mini-profiles of some of the state's rising public officials. 

Late one night in May, state Sen. James Clayborne Jr., a Belleville Democrat, stood on the Senate floor and fielded withering attacks from his fellow African-American senators over his sponsorship of landmark legislation to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

In the weeks that followed Hurricane Katrina, the Chicago area's largest Christian evangelical churches amassed an astonishing amount of manpower, cash and goods.

The 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church raised $800,000. The South Barrington church also bused 25 volunteers to Waveland, Miss., to help rebuild the Gulf Coast city of 7,000. 

And every four days, the church deployed another volunteer shift of 25. 

A boisterous crowd filled the Senate gallery last May to witness legislator after legislator rise to support a measure that would enable children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities.

Alejandro Cortes needs to drive to work, take his 2-year-old daughter to daycare and buy groceries. But Cortes, a 33-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant, doesn’t have a driver’s license. To make matters worse, there’s no public transportation in the northwest suburban town where he lives. So he drives, as he’s done for the past three years he’s lived here, without the state’s permission. 

“We don’t want to be in trouble with the authorities,” he says in Spanish. “There’s a lot of drunks who can cause accidents. It worries me for my family.”

Alejandro Cortés necesita manejar para poder trabajar, para llevar a su hija de dos años a la guardería y para ir al supermercado. Pero Cortés, un inmigrante mexicano indocumentado de 33 años, no tiene licencia para conducir.

Para complicar las cosas, no hay transportación pública en el pueblo donde vive. 

Entonces él ha conducido por los ultimos tres años sin el permiso del estado. 

“No queremos problemas con las autoridades”, dijo en español. “Hay muchos borrachos que pueden causar accidentes y me preocupa por mi familia.”

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Samantha gave a lot of thought to her chances for a good education. A student at East St. Louis High, a down-and-out school in a virtually all-black, low-income district, she had once tried to transfer to a better school in nearby Fairview Heights, a mainly white district in the state’s Metro East region. It didn’t work.

Brown v. Board of Education
Charlotte Observer

After five decades of increasing integration, American schools are now moving in the other direction, toward more segregation for African-American and Latino students. In fact, the new study out of Harvard University making that contention names Illinois among the states that continue to have the most segregated schools.

A couple of decades ago, Naperville’s teachers were unlikely to encounter a child carrying an ornamental sword to school, or a parent who doesn’t understand that an art shirt is a painting smock, or a boy getting teased because his first name is Fuk, a good luck word in Chinese.

But these days such cultural collisions are regular occurrences in the far western suburb of Chicago.

Jon Randolph

The suburbs to the southwest of Chicago have never been known for eagerness to embrace diversity. Nevertheless, diversity is beginning to embrace them. 

The sprawling community of Oak Lawn and the smaller nearby towns of Bridgeview, Burbank, Hometown, Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights mushroomed in the '50s and '60s as white ethnics fled the South and Southwest sides of the changing city of Chicago.