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Cook County Board Wed Jan 13 2010
Former gang member turned political consultant Wallace "Gator" Bradley is supposedly behind this nasty flier in support of Todd Stroger for Cook County Board President. The Illinois Review, the Chicago Current, and Chicagoist have covered this as well.
This flier represents some of the nastiest identity politics. I've made comments about the fact that all of the state's most powerful politicians are Irish-American, but while that fact can be said to reflect a legacy of our politics being basically dynastic, it is hardly a reason to accuse elected officials of being race traitors. Stroger formulated basically the thesis (if not the wording) of this flier (if you can say something this insane has a "thesis") in an interview with the Chicago News Co-Op:
"If none of us win," Mr. Stroger said of himself and Ms. Preckwinkle and Ms. Brown, "there will not be a single black executive in the state who deals with real money -- you know, like a billion dollars or more."
"If you break down our state," he continued, "and you look at who's the governor, who's the speaker of the House, who's the Senate president, who's the mayor of the city of Chicago, who's the water reclamation district president, who's the chairman of finance for the city and who's the chairman for finance for the county, you'll find that they're all Irish males."
So even if this flier was produced without coordination with the Stroger campaign, it can't be dismissed as the one-off act of a lone radical. There is a current of thought among some segment of the black political class that may be seeing the refusal of their traditional white allies to step up as a hostile act. The media, by typically pigeonholing "black" candidates, must feed this perception. But given the cruel and subjective nature of identity politics, this flier is actually more harmful and hurtful to Dorothy Brown, Toni Preckwinkle, and the other black politicians maligned as "sellouts" and race traitors. The outcry over Rod Blagojevich's statement equating shining shoes with blackness is offensive exactly because it places unfair expectations and roles on black men and women. Similarly with this flier, these black politicians are being told how they have to behave and who they have to support to "qualify" for blackness.
And yes, these Irishmen are traditional allies for the political organizations behind Stroger. That's the thing to remember: where was this flier when Governor Quinn was running for office? Or Mayor Daley? Why wasn't this flier being circulated about Todd Stroger when I took these pictures in 2006:
It was at that event that I first heard the phrase "Soldier for Stroger". Several of the pols -- originally Luis Gutierrez from what I remember -- led the crowd in a chant, "I'll be a soldier--" "--a soldier for Stroger!"
This isn't about attacking a power structure, but trying to protect one. The absence of black executives in the state if Stroger loses is troubling indeed, but saving your identity politics for defense of the powerful is pretty inexcusable.
Oh, and P.S.: