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I've Never Been to Haiti . . . But Bill O'Reilly's Obviously Never Been to Chicago's South Side

Reported by Julie - January 26, 2010 -

Nice job, Priscilla, setting Bill O'Reilly straight on the comparison he made last Friday night (1/22/10) between the south side of Chicago and Haiti. Yee gads. “If you've ever been to the south side of Chicago,” O'Reilly proclaimed, “I mean, it's a disaster. All right, it's like Haiti . . . .” On the heels of Priscilla's post, and as a Chicagoan, who works in the Chicago Loop and commutes south – through “Haiti-ville” – every day, I'd like to take all of you along on a little tour of Chicago's south side. (By the way, Chicago's local NBC station just made mention of O'Reilly's comment -- but, being a "real" news organization, made no comment.)

As you head south out of the outskirts of the Chicago Loop, you may run into Chinatown – a community adjacent to some public housing projects. Picturesque and ethnic, teeming with restaurants, businesses and shops, Chinatown projects Chicago's typical warmth and friendliness. Unlike in Haiti, the buildings are standing. The closest thing to Haiti I've seen there is when a trucker ran his 18-wheeler into the bus stop where Chinatown intersects with the Dan Ryan Expressway – which, before its reconstruction, was one of Chicago's most dangerous expressways. There's maybe been a fire or two, but, unlike Haiti, any fires are extinguished by the vast resources of the Chicago Fire Department. East of Chinatown sits McCormick Place, the largest convention facility in North America. What it cost to build -- and now maintain -- that building is probably equivalent to Haiti's entire economy.

Remember, folks, we're still on the “disastrous” south side . . . where you'll find Bridgeport, the heart of Chicago's Democratic machine – a clean, well-maintained neighborhood.

Go west, and you're in the Hispanic community of Pilsen . . . unfortunately, rich white people like O'Reilly are scarce, but warm, hard-working Hispanics are not. Then, of course, there's Little Italy, a safe, homey neighborhood with, of course, Italian restaurants and local businesses.

The south side boasts University of Illinois at Chicago, and Canaryville, a community of hardworking, predominantly blue collar people.

I'm still looking for the piles of rubble that are just like Haiti, but instead I run into U.S. Cellular Park right off the Dan Ryan (a “bad” Chicago neighborhood, I guess) and which is, of course, the home of the Chicago White Sox. East of Sox Park, on the other side of the Dan Ryan, is historic Bronzeville.

Hmm, what other Haiti-like disasters await us on the south side? Well, there's Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. And we can't forget to mention President Obama's neighborhood of Kenwood.

Kids from all over the Chicago area go on field trips to the Museum of Science and Industry – on the south side. Somehow, the school buses manage to navigate the "disaster" of the south side.

The south side community of Beverly is the bastion of the south side Irish, filled with gorgeous old homes. And, as pointed out by Michael Sweeney of The Stonecipher Report, the neighborhoods of Beverly and Morgan Park and Marquette and Chicago Lawn are home to a bunch of guys exactly like O'Reilly.

At 95th Street, you'll hit Chicago State University. Also on the south side . . . the prestigious high schools, De La Salle and Mt. Carmel.

On spring and summer days, the south side's Washington Park is filled with joggers, tennis players and picnicers . . . you recall, perhaps, that Washington Park would have been the site of the Olympic Games if Chicago had been successful in its bid. But it wasn't . . . which gave Fox days of fodder for more President Obama-bashing.

Follow beautiful Lake Shore Drive south, and you'll run into the South Shore neighborhood. There's even a country club there.

If you take State Street south out of the Loop, you'll go through “crack alley,” and some neighborhoods with empty lots and abandoned buildings – mixed in with the gentrification taking place. Take Michigan Avenue south, you might hit a bad neighborhood or two, but it's pretty much the same thing – old brownstones, and, in nice weather, the predominantly African American residents sit on the front stoops and socialize while their children play. It's almost like . . . yes, just any normal American community. No businesses buried in rubble, no people buried in rubble, nobody in agonizing pain, except maybe the pain of poverty.

My husband and I drive through the south side every day. When the Dan Ryan was under construction, we found our way in and out of just about every “bad” south side neighborhood, to avoid the expressway delays – and damned if we didn't make it out alive, every time. No buildings fell on us. No schools were in rubble. Nobody had to survive for days under piles of concrete without food or water.

To compare the devastation of Haiti to the south side of Chicago speaks volumes about O'Reilly's lack of worldliness . . . and ignorance . . . and insensitivity to the plight of the Haitians.

So, tell us again, Bill, about the neighborhoods in Chicago you've tromped around in that resemble Haiti. I heard you say you've been to Haiti . . . well, it's pretty clear you've never been to Chicago's south side. And by the way, it's probably hard to get a good look if you're riding in a stretch limo with bulletproof glass.