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The Mechanics
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Op-Ed Wed Mar 11 2015

Sifting Through Senator Kirk's "Chicago Will Become Detroit" Threat

By Dave Stieber

Last week Republican Senator Mark Kirk said that the citizens of Chicago should "re-elect Rahm or Chicago could end up like Detroit." Now the on the surface the comment seems to just imply that for whatever reason Senator Kirk believes that Rahm Emanuel will be more able to help with our city's finances than his challenger Chuy Garcia. It is odd that Senator Kirk believes this, because since Mayor Emanuel took over our city's bond rating has dropped five times. Clearly the mayor is great at raising money for his own re-election campaign, but raising money to help the city... not so much.

So let's go a little deeper into Mark Kirk's comments threatening that if Garcia is elected Chicago will become like Detroit.

My dad grew up in Detroit and, like many white Detroiters in the 1950s and 1960s, his family left the city during the time of " white flight" and moved to the suburbs. This white flight was caused by real estate agents and banks using a lot of scare tactics to convince white home owners to sell their homes quickly and cheaply because "the blacks" were moving in. Then these same real estate agents and banks would jack up the housing costs and sell these same homes to black families. This tactic eventually was made  illegal, but not before it radically altered the housing landscape in Detroit and elsewhere.

Detroit had it rough from the 1960s onward and only until very recently are things slowly starting to turn around. There were riots in the 1960s, job loss in the 1970s by the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and GM) decided to close factories to find cheaper work forces so they could maximize their profits, with no regard for the people they employed. Without a strong economic base the 1980s-2000s were tough. Detroit had issues with drugs, poverty and crime. Crime became such an issue that every year the night before Halloween called Devil's Night, vacant homes would be light on fire and burned. The 1980s movie  Robocop was based on Detroit crime.

To many white people living in suburban Detroit, the name became synonymous with all of these societal issues. Many white people became afraid to go into the city at all or only go to certain parts. 

This is the issue with Sentator Kirk's comment. On the surface it seems like a just falsely mistaken economic threat, but under the surface lies a much more sinister comment. One that implies that if Garcia someone who is Latino is elected, Chicago will have big challenges, because he isn't qualified for such complex things as improving the economy.

Implications that certain races aren't qualified enough date back to the  eugenics movement used in the US to claim only certain groups of people (i.e. white) were intelligent enough for certain jobs or privileges. This idea of eugenics also led to the creation of what we now call " standardized tests" that were supposed to measure intelligence. This eugenics idea was so wildly popular that Hitler himself and Nazi Germany picked up on this idea.

Senator Kirk's fear tactics shouldn't come as a shock either, because Republicans have a history of these type of comments. In 2012 there were enough racist comments said by prominent Republicans that a three minute video compilation was made. These comments were said by people like Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorium, Mitt Romney and Tram Hudson. This video is titled "Sh*t Republicans Say About Black People" and you can watch it below.

In 2012 a group of TEAM Englewood High School poets, coached by Missy Hughes and myself, came across that video and were very upset about it. The students decided to write a poetic response to the Republicans in the video. They titled it "What Black Poets Say to Racist Republicans." Have a look.

Clearly Senator Kirk and  Governor Rauner want Rahm in office and will use fear tactics to try to make this happen.

But now, Chicago, it is our turn to have a response to Senator Kirk and this new round of outdated racist comments, like how the TEAM Englewood poets responded to the Republican comments in 2012.

But how do we go about this?

The answer is much simpler than a choreographed and researched poetic response. We do this by going to the voting both on April 7th and voting Rahm out!

~*~

David Stieber is a father, husband, CPS teacher of History. Dave is passionately committed to promoting and improving urban public education, while simultaneously improving the lives of his students. He earned his masters in Urban Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @D_Stieber.

 
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