Our “Village in the City” is one of the most diverse areas in Chicago and has been for generations.
That diversity makes this a more vibrant place to live and is a factor, along with our strong neighborhood public schools, that drew my family, and I know many others, to purchase a home and raise a family here.
There are many residents, stakeholders, social media groups and local businesses that embrace that diversity for the asset that it is and are deeply invested in building and having a positive impact within our community.
We know that there are also others whose identity is built on stirring the pot and creating and maintaining divides.
In promoting a fundraiser for a local parish school, the marquee in front of McNally’s Bar currently reads, “Don’t be Meghan Markle. Embrace royalty. Play Queen of Hearts.”
This is not just a “funny” sign outside of a bar. It is part of a pattern of divisive and racially insensitive behavior on the part of McNally’s.
Famously, in Markle’s recent interview with Oprah, she spoke up about the racism that made living within the royal family unbearable for her, so much so that she considered taking her own life.
We can connect this sign and others back to 2014 when McNally’s landed our community in the headlines of city news with a racist incident. A member of a blues band claimed that the band was asked by the bar’s owner, known to be a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer, to cut its performance there short because there were “too many black people in the bar.”
A CPD internal affairs investigation was launched after this incident because officers owning or operating a bar and participating in racist behavior are violations of the CPD code of ethics. McNally’s owners seemed to come through this investigation without consequences. Still, they continue to stir the pot.
In late August 2020, amid civil unrest and after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., many professional athletes refused to play in their scheduled sporting events.
McNally’s posted a sign, “We don’t need pro athletes, but we need police officers.” Sly in its wording and use of the back-handed compliment, McNally’s left a small space for plausible deniability. However, when we connect these incidents and look at them in context, it is easy to see that these signs are steeped in intolerance and are intended to divide.
Soon after, a local woman wrote a letter to The Beverly Review saying that she found the sign offensive in part because “it makes black people feel unwelcome here.” In a particularly hostile move, McNally’s then targeted the woman directly by posting a sign with the following message:
“Round here Ms. Liberal it’s pro police and anti-Cub.”
Our community is home to many proud Chicago Public Schools (CPS) families and teachers who’ve had a particularly hard year. During Chicago Teachers Union negotiations over the reopening of schools, McNally’s posted a sign that read, “Catholic School teachers are awesome. Putting our kids first.” Clearly, this was a dig at CPS teachers and families.
Like the racist uncle at the holiday table, supporters of McNally’s say, “Relax, can’t anyone make a joke anymore?”
Beyond making it known who is and isn’t welcome to cross the threshold of its bar, McNally’s highly public messages are hurtful, divisive and seen by thousands of residents and passers-by each day. The messages do harm to the reputation of our community and the CPD.
McNally’s clearly enjoys stirring the pot and providing fodder for a few local forums where racism and other kinds of intolerance are the norm. Under free speech, it is within their rights to post these messages.
However, it is the responsibility of our community to speak up against this pattern of hostility and say that this behavior is unacceptable.
Hate has no home in the 19th Ward—right? Individuals, organizations, faith communities and local leaders who patronize and otherwise support McNally’s need to acknowledge this behavior for what it is and reconsider their connections to this establishment.
When people show you who they are, believe them.