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One of the most successful elements of the Chicago Movement was illumination of discourse on racism. Prior to the Chicago Movement, racism in America was embodied in the overt actions of the South. The Klan and the racial intolerance of the South set the parameters for how racism was defined. Many people in the North were able to say that they did not have ideas representative of racist attitudes because they did not embody the brand of discrimination found in the South.
One of the strengths resulting from Dr. King and other leaders moving into the North was the reconfiguration of the definition of racism showing that racism and prejudice can exist in different forms. The Chicago Movement defined racism in the North as a more insidious and insipid adversary than was apparent in its Southern counterpart. The discrimination in housing practices, economic opportunity, and educational opportunities in the North was equally discrimination as was the Klan operations in the South.
Dr. King, himself, captured this in his feelings about the racism he witnessed in the North: ‘‘I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today." The Chicago Movement might not have had as much direct success in the North as it did in the South, but it was able to raise attention to and illuminate the condition of racism in the North.
Another source of strength in the Chicago Movement was how it demonstrated that the fight for racial justice and social equality is an ongoing struggle. There was a clear sense that emerged from the Chicago Movement that Dr. King and the other leaders had not succeeded. Yet, I think that the strength of the movement was to show that the fight for social equality is a struggle that does not have a defined and clear end. It is a journey, one that Dr. King and his followers started. When Dr. King summarizes his visit in the North with the statement of the visit being ‘‘the ﬁrst step in a 1,000-mile journey,’’ it is reflective of how social justice and the fight for social justice has to be conceptualized. The true commitment to a world without racism and discrimination is one in which individuals commit themselves to a "1000 mile journey" as there is no foreseeable end at which individuals can say that "it's over." Dr. King demonstrated this with the Chicago Movement.
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