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Aldermen Thu Apr 11 2013

Accountability is the Missing Ingredient

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett is being called racist for school closings, but no one called other black politicians racist for ignoring the needs of their communities by engaging in corrupt activities for decades. We've seen the downfall of African-American communities from the direct result of the crack epidemic, street gangs, economic collapse, inadequate leadership and years of disinvestment. Evidently, accountability for previous leaders is the missing ingredient.

We are quick to bash her decision; however, where was the opposition when black leaders were becoming greedy off the expense of their citizens? Where was the opposition when black alderman and state representatives knew neighborhood schools lacked resources and were failing? Where was the outrage when parents become negligent? Most of all, where were protesters when residents repeatedly voted for corrupt leaders out of tradition and not for morality?

Perhaps, earlier accountability within Chicago Public Schools including parents and leaders could have halted the ever-failing education system that plagues the once vibrant black neighborhoods. Byrd-Bennett may be a newcomer to Chicago and her rules do not resonate well with residents but her actions are the result of crippling issues long overlooked. It's a tragic story of a minority population who've endured years of human rights abuses in this city. As we were lifting our heads above Jim Crow and educational barriers to success, we forgot to hold leaders accountable within our race. Sometimes we are beaming with joy and pride for African-American politicians that we ignore their shortcomings despite the hefty consequences.

Did they not learn from West Side alderman William Carothers, who nearly 30 years ago was sent to prison for a public corruption case? Sadly, his son, Isaac Carothers, former 29th ward alderman endured the same fate and was sentenced to 28 months in prison in 2010 for a scheme involving real estate and parking permit payoffs. The cycle of greed is not foreign to black neighborhoods, yet the guilty continue to enjoy the benefits of elected officials.

In the 2012 election, former State Rep. Derrick Smith effortlessly regained his 10th district after being indicted of a $7,000 bribe and his expulsion from the Illinois House. This is one of various situations where leaders with questionable integrity are still voted into office. He has yet to offer a formal statement of apology, claiming he will shift focus to close the gap of economic drought in for his residents. How can a criminal sweep an election so easily? The naivety will always be our community's worst enemy.

As for Jesse Jackson, Jr. former congressmen for Illinois 2nd district, his story is a mere shame. Jackson's bloodline was political royalty by the deeds and reputation of his father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, Sr. Perhaps, the younger Jackson never knew the feeling of inferiority or empathized with 2nd district residents. His father always had the door of opportunity ready for his son to enter without grasping the essence of struggle. Now he will forever deal with regret and a tarnished legacy. While he was battling with infidelity and mishandling campaign funds, the 2nd district was facing economic decline and chronic foreclosures. Ford Heights, one the nation's poorest suburbs, lies in the 2nd District, only a stone's throw from Olympia Fields and Flossmoor -- areas with six-figure incomes, excellent schools and a springboard of opportunities. Yet he reigned as congressman for 17 years.

Although former Mayor Richard M. Daley is Caucasian, he is also guilty of not serving black neighborhoods, which sadly still gave him support for six terms. The notorious Daley has left one of the largest budget deficits in history for current city administration and residents. Despite newspapers reporting his constant lapses of judgment, special treatment of allies and disregard to low-income communities, he was Chicago's longest serving mayor. For years his questionable activities were overlooked and he claimed a victory each election with the same broken promises. His unwavering support from African-American communities is a heavy disappointment as improvements continue to stall and violence remains prevalent.

The current state of black communities indicates multiple factors but one is never learning from past mistakes. Perhaps, there was never a time of reflection to assess the issues or to make corrections. This is now the time, although delayed. Yes, Byrd-Bennett's plan to close 61 public schools, increasing classroom size and leaving a thousand educators unemployed isn't an ideal recipe for improvement. Yes, Mayor Emanuel cannot empathize because his children are sent to private schools and experience a stellar education. For decades, citizen's have been waiting for investments and new amenities in schools but those additions are still absent. However, we are to blame for continuously putting ill-prepared leaders with underlying intentions in office. Once we are burned, why give the oppressor more power to abuse?

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Julia SB / April 11, 2013 11:47 AM

THANK YOU for telling the truth. I have this conversation everyday of my life, trying to make people see that we don't have to accept mediocrity within our own base. Keep up the good work, and continue to tell the TRUTH.

Valerie F. Leonard / April 16, 2013 2:07 AM

Interesting perspective, and valid points. Perhaps I missed the articles or the interviews, but,I don't recall reading about your outrage when these events were unfolding, either. As a resident of the North Lawndale community, I shake my head at the conditions that we have allowed, for political reasons, lack of vision, corruption,inability to implement, or sometimes, all of the above. Regardless of when the outrage started, I think the fact that people are starting to at least question decisions is a healthy start. It is my hope that the discontent may be channeled into positive action. I know, "...hope springs eternal..."

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