Social media shows we're not as racially tolerant as we thought

  • Written by Bob Rakow


“They” were at Chicago Ridge Mall the Saturday after Christmas.


I know this because some people who post on Facebook said so.


As you know by now, there was a melee, riot, fight, disturbance at the mall that caused stores to be locked down and the building evacuated.


Police from several communities—some carrying rifles, others joined by their canine companions—descended on the mall at 95th Street and Ridgeland Avenue as shoppers as well as teens who were simply hanging out ran for the exits.


It turned out that a fight in the food court led to chaos when word that gunshots were fired spread throughout the mall. Turns out the sound of gunshots was really restaurant worker in the food court banged some pots together to disperse the crowd.


A few hours later after the incident, several local Facebook pages blew up. And while many posters voiced genuine concerns and raised serious questions about mall security, others spoke using the not-so-difficult-to-decipher code words that said “they” were responsible for the incident at the mall.


It’s the same disgusting code that substitutes the word “Canadians” for blacks or led a woman I once knew to run her fingers across her hand when she was referring to African-Americans. Her objective, I guess, was to indicate a different color of skin without speaking.


Saturday’s incident was shocking and disturbing. No one goes to the mall and expects to be threatened by sudden mob action that causes crowds of people to scream and shout with fear as they head for the doors.


Similar incidents happened at other malls throughout the county over the weekend. It’s a situation that Chicago Ridge Mall management in cooperation with the village of Chicago Ridge has already addressed by considering a youth escort policy that would prevent teens from gathering in the mall during certain hours without having an adult companion.

North Riverside Mall has had such a policy in place for more than a year.


The action at Chicago Ridge Mall reportedly involved some black youths. To say so does not make one a racist. The problem is, once some people discovered that black teens were involved, they were off to the races.


One poster noted: “Nothing but savages. And they wonder why good people don't want them in their schools, in their stores, in their neighborhoods.”

First, who are the good people? And who gave them control of the schools, stores and neighborhoods?

Scary mindset, no? Not for some. Not for those who lack the ability to stand back and place an incident into context. It’s easier, you see, to blame an entire race for the actions of a few members of that race.

Let’s face it. Times have changed. White folks can’t drop the N-bomb or make openly disparaging remarks about various minorities like they did 50 years ago.

As a result, I believe we’ve been lulled into a false notion that the last remnants of racism have disappeared.

Think again.

Many Facebook posts I saw over the weekend proved that a more subtle, camouflaged racism is still alive and well among some people. And when an incident such as the one at Chicago Ridge Mall occurs, they pounce on it to reinforce their racist thinking.


My daughter and two friends were in the food court when the melee broke out. One of her friends is African-American. She’s an honors student, plays in the school band, is heavily involved at school and is exceeding polite.


She’s clearly never going to be involved in a mob action at a mall. But when Facebook posters toss around words like “savages” and other hateful epithets, they wound my daughter’s friend and her self-esteem all the same.


I recall an evening more than 35 years ago playing softball at Rosenwald Park on the Southwest Side of Chicago. I looked over my shoulder as I stood in the outfield and saw a group of white boys chase a black boy who was riding his bike. This kid was pedaling for dear life. No question he’d have taken a beating if the white kids caught him.


Back then, Western Avenue was the line of demarcation between black and white neighborhoods. As long as both sides stayed where they belonged, we’d all be fine. It’s the way we thought back then. Sadly, it’s how many of us were raised.


It didn’t work out that way. Many racial barriers dissolved and we’re better for it.


While many Facebook posts were difficult to read, I found one that was especially encouraging.


“I understand that there are a lot of things going on in our country and our own backyard, but please be respectful and watch how you phrase things. Using words and phrases like “them,” “animals,” “savages,” “ghetto” (and) “cage them all up” is very offensive. I don't support this inflammatory wording on either side of the race card and neither should any of you.”

Well said.


Accuracy in Reporting


Note to Facebook posters: knock it off with dangerous misinformation like “shots fired at the mall.” The situation was bad enough without people insisting, even after police officials reported otherwise, that they heard shots. 


I get that everyone wants to be first to social media with information, especially when it’s something critical like a crime or emergency. But try to follow the “better to be right than to be first” credo we journalists abide by before you comment.


'My best Christmas ever'

  • Written by Don C. White


 Don C. White of Palos Hills shares a lemonade toast with his grandson, Samuel, in Joliet last week.   Don recovered from complications after an open-heart surgery and said he hopes to be around many years while Samuel grows up. photo by Jeff Vorva.

 Editor’s note: The Reporter’s history columnist, Don C. White of Palos Hills, had open heart surgery in October and we were dismayed to find out during a phone call shortly after the surgery that there were some complications. After a longer-than-expected recovery, White, 76,   was back to his computer keyboard earlier this month and writing with a fresh outlook on life. The following column contains his thoughts after what he calls his “adventure”:

This will be my best Christmas ever.

Two years ago, my grandson, Samuel, said “Grandpa, are you going to be around when I grow up?’’

He was about eight years old then and it was a pretty profound question, I told him “Samuel, I’m doing everything I can to be here for you.’’

I had open-heart surgery performed on Oct. 15 and it didn’t go quite as planned.  But when it was over, I thanked the surgeon and told that he just accomplished will help me be there for Sam.

 I was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 14 to prepare for the next day’s surgery. 

The surgeon stopped by and explained that the procedure would be two by-passes, not four as he had originally thought.  Another doctor stopped in to mark my legs for the location of where they would harvest the veins to be used. 

The surgeon explained to my wife, Helen, and son, David, that the double bypass surgery should take around three or four hours.  They spent the entire day and late into the night waiting and getting updates from the surgery team and the surgeon.

I was taken into the surgery prep area and work began to get me ready for my adventure.

One of the last things I remember was one of the nurses from the pacemaker clinic coming in to adjust my settings lower for surgery.  I was introduced to some of the surgical team and a general anesthetic was started to mellow me out. 

And it did. 

I do remember being wheeled toward the surgery center and then it was lights out for a while.

The procedure went smoothly, but when they were getting ready to close me up that’s when the problems began.  When they removed a clamp from my aorta a small tear developed and bleeding occurred.  Because the aorta wall was so thin, they were unable to suture the tear.  They had to put me back on the heart-lung bypass and cool me down to 28 degrees before they could make the repair. 

After the repair, I was rewarmed and taken off the bypass machine.  The surgery had taken between seven and eight hours.  Needless to say, my wife and son, as well as the surgery team, were stressed. 

Me? I just enjoyed a little longer nap and was oblivious to the entire procedure. 

After I was closed up -- wired and glued back together and stabilized in the operating room -- I was taken to ICU for recovery.   The next couple of days were not even a blur for me,

I don’t remember anything that happened to me.

I was told that at some point they attempted to put a feeding tube in through my nose and down my throat – but I tried to fight them off. 

I wasn’t trying to be a pain the butt, but I guess sometimes I was.  Again, I don’t have memory of much of this. 

 Samuel called me and said, “Grandpa I love you.”   But I didn’t know what Samuel said.

At some point the feeding tube was taken out and I was able to start eating a regular healthy diet.  Well, one of the problems that sometimes occurs after surgery and sedation is that your taste buds go on vacation. Mine did and seven weeks later they pretty much still are.

This is one of the reasons that I wanted to get home as soon as possible so I could get some tasty food in my system.  So far that has not helped much, but is getting better each day.

I spent a total of nine days at the Hines V.A. Hospital.  I was discharged on Oct. 22.

 I just want to say how much I appreciate the wonderful care that I received. 

Was it perfect? 

Well, no, but the T.L.C. (tender loving care) that I received made me want to do the best I could to help them help me.  I think it worked and I know that my hospital care helped me get better and on the road to recovery.

I am writing again. I am driving. I am back to work at my Ace Hardware job and Helen and I are looking forward to going back to our volunteer duties at Hines.  It has been an uphill battle and I could not have done it without Helen, David and the rest of my family’s love and support.   

 At this Christmas season, I want to give thanks to God for guiding the surgeons’ hands.  Also, thanks to all of you who prayed and sent your good wishes for my recovery.  I have been truly blessed to have Helen by my side throughout this adventure.  God bless you my wonderful wife.

Again, this will be my best Christmas ever. This surgery makes understand what’s important of what’s going on in my life and to be here for my family.

'It's a Wonderful Life' comes to life in my living room

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-Color     


The movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” literally came to life in my living room last weekend.

      God worked a Christmas miracle through a cluster of my friends, who emptied their wallets to assist an Evergreen Park resident named, Angie Hernandez. 

     If you haven’t seen this 1946 classic, or you’re finding the details a little fuzzy, no worries.

      I’m fresh off a Redbox rental, I’m your guide for a preview in review.

       In the movie, the character, George Bailey is a man who’s given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence. The angel shows George all the lives he’s touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. In the end, the community of Bedford Falls rally to help him out of a major financial predicament. Money is flying everywhere to help the man.

       In this present day version, Hernandez is our Mr. Bailey, but don’t be alarmed, she wasn’t contemplating suicide.  However, like Mr. Bailey, she’s desperately discouraged and experiencing a financial hardship that warrants supernatural intervention.

                She said, “I’m depressed. I just can’t seem to win. I have faith in the Lord, but my human side takes over my faith sometimes, and I feel fear.”

                In the movie, Clarence’s involvement is precipitated by the prayers of people petitioning God on George’s behalf. Clarence, who hasn’t yet earned his wings, is chosen because of his simple faith. Likewise, a multitude of people have been praying for Hernandez, and apparently, God gave Clarence a respite and employed me. Look at my column photo. I don’t look like a pudgy old man like Clarence. But you know what they say about the Lord and mysterious ways…

              But, I wasn’t being a very good angel. I felt a nudging to help but honestly, the severity of her financial problems exceed the level of assistance I can offer. But, I remained hopeful that a little help would be better than none and settled on an idea to throw a party.

                Invitations went to married couples only and read, “How would you like to make a meal and a memory together? Don and Claudia will host their 1st Potluck Christmas. In lieu of a Christmas gift exchange we’re asking each household to donate $25 to this family.”

                There was a warm reception of those invited. One person commented, “What a great idea. Looking forward to your Christmas party.”

                Even people who couldn’t make it were excited. Another person said, “I’ll be in Tampa, but I’ll drop something in the mail for this family. Thanks for reminding us to celebrate in a way that highlights what this season is REALLY about.”

                Before the party even started we’d collected $385 in monetary donations, a $40 grocery store gift card and a turkey, all from people who couldn’t attend. 

                Their generosity began infecting my household like a virus.

                This was a good thing.

We came up with an idea to have a live auction during the party. My seven year old daughter , Donae  really wanted to help. She volunteered to auction several unopened gifts she received for her birthday this September.

                “Are you sure?” I said, concerned she might regret it afterwards.

                “Mom! Yes.” She replied, excitedly  

                Not wanting to be outshined by our daughter, Don threw in three pair of brand new shoes and a few miscellaneous things bringing our total items to be auctioned to 16. Bids for each item were set at $1. After all, guests had already agreed to donate $25 to a complete stranger, we figured offering them valuable items at rock-bottom prices would be our way of saying thanks.

                Things went far differently than expected.

It turned into a bidding frenzy. The first item up for bid was a travel sized tube of Colgate and miniature Barbie toothbrush. That thing sold for $10. From that point forward, my living room sounded like a trading floor on Wall Street. Don got wrapped up in it and jumped in a bid himself. I yelled at him saying, “Babe. Are you nuts? Stop the bid. It’s already ours.”

                Thank goodness he lost to another bidder. But, there was still a little marital discord. He got so wrapped up in the hoopla, he pulled our poster-sized family collage off the wall and proceeded to evoke a bidding war. “What are you doing!? Put that back!” I demanded

                “I’m not auctioning our picture. I’m auctioning the collage you made. You’re going to create one just like this for their family.” He replied.

                Okay, this is where my party pleasantries went by the wayside for a second. Because I said, “You can’t auction my labor? No no no no no!” But, it was too late. Bid closed at $16. I got pimped out. Who does that? But, I let him off the hook. We made a memorable fun night, with a great cause.

                We raised $1,129. We delivered it to her Sunday, which unbeknownst to us, happened to be her birthday. She was shocked into complete silence upon opening the envelope of cash and checks. Her face streamed with tears.

                “Thank you. Thank you.” She whispered softly, followed by briefly leaving the room to collect herself. Angie is one that isn’t accustomed to asking for help but always willing to give it.

                At the end of, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the miracle came after Mary, -- George Bailey’s wife -- went through town telling people he was in trouble. Their hearts began pouring out love to help him, just in time for Christmas. The angel named Clarence wrote George a small note in the conclusion that read, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

                The kicker at the end of the movie is when George’s daughter, Zuza, says “Every time a bell rings, and angel gets his wings.’’ I have a long way to go to earn mine.

                While my friends and I were able to provide some relief, I’m afraid it still isn’t enough. I encouraged her to set up a GoFundMe account, here’s the information if you’d like to get involved.

A winter tradition: TV news hot on hype but sub-zero on substance

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Bobs Column - The B SideGetting cold out there. Autumn’s over. Did you see the weather they got in Minnesota? Won’t be long before we see some of the “white stuff.”
Polar vortex is on its way.
I’d wager most folks couldn’t explain what a polar vortex is, but they like saying “polar vortex.”
Can we please stop? Seriously.
This is Chicago.
We experience four seasons. Winter is one of them. It’s mid-November and it’s getting cold. Shocking.
Of course, the local news broadcasts feed this silliness. Years ago, I don’t remember newscasts leading with weather stories unless we were in for a “grind the city to a halt” type storm.
But now, any threat of snow, any significant drop in temperature, and weather is the star of the TV news.
Last week, I caught the national news and weather was genuinely the story in places like Minnesota and some Great Plains’ states where the temperature dropped to below freezing in mere hours. Sheets of ice blanketed the roads in some places. Winter weather had arrived with little warning.
Real news, to be sure.
We escaped the deep freeze here in Chicago, but it was getting colder and that certainly deserved news coverage.
News anchors chatted with the weatherman, feigning disappointment about the end of warmer temps. Everyone was resigned to the fact that autumn was over.
But news coverage of the onset of winter is only the opening act. The real fun begins when we finally get the first big snowstorm.
Breaking news. It’s snowing in Chicago. Dispatch the reporters and the camera crews.
They follow the same template year after year after year.
Images of snowplows clearing the streets and maybe few words from the guy who drives the plow. Talk to the city dweller who spent hours shoveling snow in front of his house and used kitchen chairs to reserve the space. A long-held Chicago tradition, we’re reminded.
Real news would be footage of a driver getting out of his car, moving the chairs and parking in the “reserved” spot, leading to a fight with the guy who shoveled the snow.
“Snow fall leads to brawl. Tonight at 10.”
Instead, it’s more of the usual.
A reporter is stationed along the side of a highway or on one of the overpasses. Traffic is snarled as a result of the snow. Who knew? And by the way, if you don’t have to go outside….don’t.
Of course, what’s wall-to-wall weather coverage without getting a reporter to Home Depot or a similar store? The unprepared masses are buying shovels, snow blowers, salt, and the like. “What brings you out tonight?” the reporter asks a shopper. We eagerly await the response.
Sometimes, a reporter will check in on the grocery stores as well. Some people are stocking up on the staples before supplies run out. The dawn of the apocalypse is upon us. Ready yourselves.
And let’s not forget to talk to the tow truck drivers putting in double and triple shifts as well as the folks whose cars are stuck in the snow.
And no one can say the TV reporters aren’t prepared for the elements. Big, goofy hats with earflaps, ski gloves and boots suitable for someone taking a team of dogs into the artic are all part of the garb. And despite the garb, reporters still look cold and miserable.
It will happen this year just like every other year. We expect it, I suppose, and that’s why the TV news feeds it to us. Plus, in a town with several newscasts, one station can’t afford to downplay the first flake that falls from the sky.
So get ready. It’s getting cold out there. Winter’s upon us.
The TV news told me so.

Cosby's words of wisdom then sound empty now

  • Written by Bob Rakow

When the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision was commemorated, comedian Bill Cosby gave a speech at an NAACP awards ceremony.

Cosby’s words were rather controversial, as he called on blacks in America to take responsibility for their own lives.

 The comedian talked about elevated school dropout rates for inner city black students and criticized low-income blacks for not using the opportunities the civil rights movement won for them.

 He went on to say that many blacks fail themselves and their community as a result of unplanned pregnancies, poor parenting, a lack of education, non-standard English, counter-culture dress and involvement in crime.

Some folks (many whites, of course) agreed with Cosby’s words. Conversely, he angered much of the black community. Either way, his commentary stirred vigorous debate, which is usually good thing.

Agree or disagree, people paid attention because Cosby had gravitas. We loved him for his body of work that dates back more than 30 years to “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.” He’s an author, a popular standup comedian, the star of a hit television show and frequent guest speaker.

Today, however, Cosby career is in shambles and his powerful words of a decade ago seem empty.

It’s impossible to turn on the news or open a newspaper/newsmagazine without seeing the latest about Cosby’s alleged indiscretions.

Everything has unraveled for Dr. Huxtable in the past month or so, and as the accusations swirl, he isn’t vigorously denying much. That’s typically not a good sign.

There are too many accusations to list in this limited space, but one complaint was lodged by a 55-year-old woman sued Cosby claiming sexual battery and infliction of emotional distress for allegedly molesting her in a bedroom at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old.

Cosby is counter-suing the woman, claiming she is attempting to extort money from him.

In recent weeks, 20 other women have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault—charges that began to surface a decade ago when the former director of operations for Temple's women's basketball team sued him for drugging her and assaulting her in 2004.

The comedian has not been criminally charged, and many of the claims are so old, they are barred by statutes of limitations.

Cosby is big supporter of Temple, his alma mater. But on Dec.1, he resigned from the university’s board of trustees following pressure to do so.

How sad. Cosby was rich enough, successful enough to make a difference at his school. He often attended basketball games, wore school garb. He’s proud to be a Temple Owl. But ultimately he was forced to walk away under a shroud of controversy.

It’s interesting to read Cosby’s comments of a decade ago given the events of the past month.

“No longer is a person embarrassed because they're pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child,” Cosby said in 2004.

He talked about the lack of parenting in the old neighborhoods and chided today’s parents for being unaware of their children’s whereabouts.

“I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was twelve? Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don't know he had a pistol? And where is his father, and why don't you know where he is? And why doesn't the father show up to talk to this boy?”

He was right, of course. And his words still ring true today. And at a time when racial unrest dominates the news following hostilities in Ferguson, Mo., Cosby might have had something to lend to the debate.

Not now, though, and that’s a shame.

Well-known attorney Martin D. Singer has dismissed the allegations, labeling them "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.”

He added that “it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.”

It’s possible, I suppose, for all of the allegations to be false. But a Nov. 19 article in the The Atlantic magazine appropriately addressed that issue.

 “It is not unheard of for celebrities to be targeted for false allegations. The Cosby case is different, though, in its sheer volume and lack of ulterior motive—no civil suit, no criminal charges,” the story said.

“A defense of Cosby requires that one believe that several women have decided to publicly accuse one of the most powerful men in recent Hollywood history of a crime they have no hope of seeing prosecuted, and for which they are seeking no damages. The alternative is to see one of the most celebrated public fathers of our time, and one of the great public scourges of black morality, revealed as a serial rapist.”

That’s the tough part for those who admire Cosby, who viewed as a thoughtful man, a thinking man—not just an entertainer.

So often, we shrug our shoulders and offer a collective, “What did you expect” when a millionaire athlete, rapper, rock star, Hollywood starlet, destroys their career as a result of drugs, criminal acts, domestic issues and so on.

But this is Cosby. America’s dad. Jell-O Pudding. It’s a sad state of affairs.