The Pull of Gary

“I want to come back, but I don’t want to come back.”

 

Produced by Rebecca Werner with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Storytellers in Veiled Racism are volunteers with Gary’s Miller Spotlight Project, which was the first coordinating organization to host StoryCorps in Indiana.

Transcript for The Pull of Gary

I am from here. From Gary, grew up there. ’06 I moved back. But I wasn’t really involved. I was still working in Chicago. And that’s the trick, because being from Gary, and knowing Gary, and living in Chicago—it was completely twisted for me because I kept hearing about problems here. I’d say, “Oh, I could fix that. But I’m working here in Chicago. I’m hanging out in Chicago.” And it’s like, I want to come back, but I don’t want to come back. But I couldn’t get away from the pull of Gary.

The ’07 mayor’s campaign with Karen against Rudy really, really messed me up. I actually spiraled a bit in law school because of that. On the campaign trail, it was Rudy Clay. He had took over the last two years of Scott King’s campaign, and this was the first time he was running for mayor. And I had met Mayor Karen before and got involved with her campaign, and working on issues, and drafted a policy platform, and just really heavily involved there. And as Election Day rolled around, you know, there was a lot of talk about this person from Harvard—Harvard Law School—wants to become mayor. She was from Gary, and she’s running against the guy who had been around. Lot of issues, right? We just felt like we had a better team, right? You have that myopia when you’re running, and I saw so many people on the campaign trail, so many people that I knew even growing up with said, ‘Well, she’s too educated for this. She’s the wrong person for this.’ And I mean, it’s like—and it hurt that then-mayor, Rudy Clay, who’s passed away now, say that, you know, ‘We don’t need no Harvard-educated person running the city. This is about the streets. It’s about the people.’ And people rallied behind that. And I was like, ‘Wow, do I really not belong in school? Like, do I not belong here at home?’

During Rudy’s administration, I had a radio show very critical of the city. It’s like somebody gave me a voice, and that was everything I felt. I asked him on the radio, like, ‘Remember what you said about Mayor? And now you’re campaigning for Obama? They both went to Harvard Law School. How does that work out for you?’ And I was really angry the entire time. I was angry for a long period of time.

I still feel like an outsider. Treated as one. Could be an education standpoint, not being a former political family or political power here in the city. My family was just steelworkers who barbecued and gambled on weekends and weeknights. People want people they can trust—people they’ve known for a long time, and it’s favorites, and that’s just how life works. Nepotism is a product of government. You find a way to get people you know, love, or related to involved in some way. And that’s in any type of business, right? It’s just in politics, it feels icky because it’s politics. You’re supposed to be voting for someone and picking the best. There’s a lot of that here. And most of the people you see, most of the longtime employees are going to be related to someone else in some way round that way. That’s not different from any private company, really, but you get to feel like an outsider if you’re not part of that, or if you try to challenge the system, or rebuff, rebuke.   

 

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