Chicago is an ethnically diverse city and I can prove it with a book. The title of the book is “The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook: A Guide To The Cultures and Traditions of our Region’s Diverse Communities by Jeryl Levin and Cynthia Linton.”
In 1997 the Illinois Ethnic Coalition (IEC) published the first edition of “The Ethnic Handbook: A Guide to the Cultures and Traditions of Chicago’s Diverse Communities.” The purpose of that first edition of “The Ethic Handbook” was to focus on helping the “wider public better understand diversity” and dedicated to the notion that we “can and should” have a little better understanding of the people who live around us.
Oh, how the times have changed since that 1997 edition was published.
I am not going to tell you that the second edition is a new and improved version of the first, although it is. It is just that each edition is an accurate reflections of its time.
This second edition of the Ethnic Handbook contains many updates. Published are all new demographic information and four new chapters on Bosniak, Iranian, Muslim and Pakistani Americans. All four of these additional chapters focus on the growing Muslim presence in the area. The Muslim chapter itself, although it crosses many ethnic and national boundaries, is included because of the level of misunderstanding and discrimination that this religious community often confronts.
Since the publication of the first edition time, a president was elected in late 2000, or do you say “selected” by the United States Supreme Court. A catastrophic event occurred known as 9/11. The economy nearly collapsed as a bubble burst in the housing market. An obscure United States Senator, who was an obscure Illinois state senator, was elected President of the United States in a decisive victory in response to the economic collapse caused by a housing bubble.
The same obscure, but now famous senator turned President, was reelected in 2012 in what is now accepted as a major victory of the emerging and growing ethnic population of America. It is that fact and that fact alone, that explains that “immigration reform” will become law this year. “Immigration reform” has became a buzz word, in part due to the controversial immigration legislation passed in Arizona and ruled on by the United States Supreme Court.
The book often uses comparative analysis in explaining the changes in Chicago. For example, the first chapter tells us that in 1990, Chicago African Americans made up about 40% of the population. By 2010, with considerable migration to the suburbs, it’s closer to 33%. It explains a number of things, including the election of Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago. The 2011 Chicago ward remap (which interestingly does technically go into effect until 2015) and even the proposed closing of 52 schools by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, most of them in African-American communities.
Jeryl and Cynthia tells us in the introduction that city of Chicago proper lost approximately 215,000 residents. The vast majority were African-Americans. They also tell us that “Latino and Asian groups significantly increased their numbers both in Chicago and statewide, with Latinos surpassing blacks as Illinois’ largest minority and Asians becoming the state’s fastest growing minority.”
“By 2020, minorities will make up more than 50% of the Chicago metropolitan area’s population, according to the New Metro Minority Map released by the Brookings Institution in 2011,'” say the authors.
With the backdrop of almost 50 public schools closing in Chicago, mostly in African-Americans communities, this book is a valuable tool for politicos, political scientists, political junkies and anyone interested in the history of Chicago. The first chapter covers African-Americans. It isn’t simply about the population shifts of the community, but covers the historical background, current migration patters, religious preferences, traditions, foods for special occasions, major issues, politics, health concerns and more.
That is the kind of attention to detail that one can expect throughout the book, whether it is a discussion of Cambodia-Americans, Filipino-Americans or Irish-Americans.
I would strongly recommend ordering this updated edition of The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook to add to your reference shelf.