Monday, May 2, 2011

The South Side

One interesting pattern in large American cities is that the south sides of cities that are located below a city's central core are almost always blue collar, working class areas.

South Boston. South Philly. South Baltimore. Southeast DC. The South Side of Chicago. Southwest Atlanta. South side of Houston. Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. South Central Los Angeles.

Not that is not to say there are no nice southern sections of cities are that sections of cities north of their downtowns may not be as working class as southern sections. But in many cases the south sides of cities are not only infamous in their own right but they can also define the working class character of the entire city. South Boston and Southies have been prominently shown in recent big budget films like The Town and The Departed. Philadelphia is inextricably linked to South Philly because of cheesesteaks and Rocky. The South Side of Chicago, Lower Ninth and South Central dominate the working class images of their respective cities on a national scale.

For  port cities, it's easier to connect the dots on why the southern sections of cities became large working class communities. These cities were often located on rivers and waterways that forced cheap working class labor to live on the cheapest land (as well as unwanted ethnic groups as well. You might have heard America was a little racisty back then), which was often swamps and marshy land that were located just below major ports and factories. South Boston, South Philadelphia, Southeast DC and the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans were literally built on swamp land. The cramped conditions of these cities original working class helped foster the image of their city's working class to this day. Chicago's famous south side which is bordered by lake Michigan was also built on swamp land but did not develop around port factories. Chicago's South Side was developed around the Union Stockyards, the city's meat-packing district and the Pullman railroad company.

But for the other major cities in the South and West the connection to why the south side of their major cities are working class are not as clear. Did cities in the South and West which developed into major cities only within the 20th century just repeat the development of older cities because of precedent? I don't know but I find it very peculiar.

No matter the case, here's my shout out to the American city South Side:

Common ft Kanye West - Southside

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