In Chicago, we have not seen riots since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. During those riots, one event -- Dr. King's death -- sent black Chicagoans over the edge. Yet it was not this tragedy in isolation that caused black Chicagoans to take to the streets and commit violent and destructive acts. Rather, it was the history and continued reality of violence and oppression they had faced here ever since the first black Americans began to move en masse to Chicago during the Great Migration.
On Sunday night Ferguson, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb) saw riots and looting. Like the MLK riots in Chicago, the rioting was set into motion by another devastating death -- the police killing of Michael Brown just days before he was supposed to begin college. And just like in Chicago, it was not this one event alone that caused the protests. Rather Brown's death was a tipping point. It was too much for people who have been systematically oppressed and dehumanized to take sitting down.
Over this Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, 84 people were shot and 16 killed. Over 1,000 people have been shot in the city since the beginning of the year, and almost all of them were black and Latino men under the age of 35. Shedding light on these numbers is important, but numbers on their own are not enough. A shallow focus on statistics and short-term solutions consistently dominates media coverage of violence in Chicago. This insubstantial, fleeting reportage ignores the deeper societal inequalities that continue to spur violence in the city's most marginalized black neighborhoods.
The Chicago neighborhoods that have the highest violent crime rates are the same that have the greatest concentrations of poverty, incarceration, unemployment and failing schools. And while violent crime has fallen in Chicago (as in all major American cities) since the 1990s, Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson found that the same neighborhoods have remained the most violent.
To educate the public about Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian exodus when over 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes, the Chicago chapter of the American Muslims for Palestine are hosting two events in Chicago this May.
The first event was Thursday at Daley Plaza, where a group of volunteers, 31 in total, handed out informational materials at Daley Plaza. The materials aimed to educate passers-by about the 1948 events and what Nakba means today. Most of these volunteers came from Universal School in Bridgeview. 3,000 total copies were distributed, according to Kristin Szremski, director of media and communications at the organization.
Szremski said that reaction Downtown was mixed. While some people read the educational brochure and were intrigued by it, others were rude and definitely anti-Palestinian, she said. She said this was difficult for the students who encountered this since they are Americans of Palestinian heritage.
On Saturday, the chapter will host an event that includes a Palestine Parade, authentic Palestinian cuisine, a bazaar, folk dancing and songs and bread, freshly baked on traditional 'taboon,' or ovens outside of the Universal School in Bridgeview.
"We want people to know that the Nakba still continues today in the Israeli apartheid policies that result in the military occupation of Palestine, the restriction on freedom of movement, the demolition in thousands of Palestinian homes and the random arrest and detentions of thousands of political prisoners, including 700 children, every year," said Nida Sahouri, AMP-Chicago chapter chairwoman. "We Americans fund this with our tax dollars. We just want people to know the truth so one day they will pressure Congress to approve a more fair and balanced foreign policy in the Middle East."
Last week in Chicago and throughout Illinois we suffered through the latest installment of the polar vortex. Unfortunately, the frigid weather brought out a heated and ugly side of many students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
On Sunday the 26th, all UIUC students received an email from their school's chancellor Phyllis Wise reading, "Classes and operations at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will proceed as scheduled Monday Jan. 27. Please use caution as you proceed in and around campus during what is forecast to be an extremely cold and windy day and night."
Unsurprisingly, given the projections of below-zero temperatures and even lower wind chills, many students were peeved that classes were not cancelled. But understandable displeasure soon morphed into an outpouring of vile, sexist and racist Twitter rants against Wise, who is Asian-American. Some of the Twitter posts, which were filed under #fuckphyllis, included:
Chicago is huge. Geographically, very, very big for an old city. At 225 or so square miles, it could fit four Bostons inside it. New York is only 75 square miles larger, despite being almost three times as populous. Excepting Alaska, there are only three cities north of the Mason-Dixon line that are larger. I don't take seriously critiques of Chicagoans' parochialism; we live in a city of neighborhoods and Chicago's sheer scale makes comprehensive circulation throughout the city prohibitive. Besides, New Yorkers tend to stick to their boroughs.
But the city turned 175 this past week, and there is one wish I'd make as we blow out the candles: to make a serious commitment to desegregating the city.
Chicago's desegregation is stubborn. It persists for a variety of reasons, as many invisible as visible, and not all attributable to official political policy or market pressures. But the fact is somewhat inescapable that 44 years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, almost 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there is an easily identifiable white Chicago, Latino Chicago, and Black Chicago.
Polls show that Black Chicagoans in particular are willing and in fact desirous of living in more integrated communities. The lip service our politicians pay to diversity suggests there is at least superficial political support for diverse neighborhoods. But the segregation problem seems intractable. Why?
For one thing, it may be because in our public rhetoric segregation is not seen as a problem. This was particularly conspicuous during the ward remapping debate; the fact that it is still so easy to draw lines around massive areas of the city with homogeneous racial populations didn't seem to raise any questions about our supposedly progressive city.
My little enclave of Noble Square is somewhat integrated. There are still "white ethnic" families, and Mexican and black families despite the strong lacing of white professionals and college students that usually augurs turbo gentrification. Taking my inexhaustible puppy for a long walk around our neighborhood this weekend, one reason for this island of diversity occurred to me: at either end of the neighborhood are large low-income housing developments, with a senior public housing high rise smack in the middle. In between are two high schools and at least two elementary schools, a park, and two- and three-flats with only a smattering of single-family homes and condo blocks.
Could it be that Chicago's segregation problem is a zoning problem?
In the last election, the first two viable Latino candidates in Chicago's history, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, made a strong race for mayor. Recently, new Latino aldermen and county commissioners like Jesus Garcia have been elected and moved important legislation forward.
In the ward remap battle, Latinos successfully remapped the wards to gain seats in the City Council. But not all Latino empowerment is positive.
For instance, Joe Berrios is the first Latino boss of the Cook County Democratic Party. He is also County Assessor and a throwback to the bad old days of assessor Parky Cullerton — nepotism, patronage, corruption and machine politics.
For progressives, two important races are shaping up. One is the second run of the very attractive young progressive Latino candidate, Rudy Lozano. Lozano came within a few votes of defeating veteran State Rep. Dan Burke in the 2010 election. He is running this time in the newly remapped 21st legislative district against Latina former journalist Silvana Tabares. She is supported by machine aldermen Ed Burke, George Cardenas, Michael Zalewski and Speaker Mike Madigan.
At 7p.m. tonight, Occupy Chicago will hold its first overnight occupation on the South Side following a general assembly on property owned by New Beginnings Church. The church is hosting the event in conjunction with its own occupation of the derelict Super Motel at 6625 S. Martin Luther King Blvd, which is across the street from its main sanctuary. Its pastor, Corey B. Brooks, has been camping on the roof of the motel for a dozen days and fasting on water alone. He plans on camping on the site until the church raises $450,000 to raze the former motel and build a community center with mixed-use, mixed-income development on site.
Pastor Brooks said that he was "excited" when contacted by Occupy Chicago. "I think that anybody who -- especially when they're not from this area -- wants to come lend support, we've got to be open to that." Ultimately, the pastor hopes that he can play a role mediating between the group and Mayor Emanuel. "I want to have good relations with everybody. We are the church. We're not supposed to be at war with anybody ... We bring about peace."
Since we're past the deadline for the City Council to agree on a new ward map, this is as good a time as any to start talking about it here.
For the record, I live in one area that will be affected by the remap process. I've been to meetings regarding the ward remap. This includes neighborhood meetings as well as public hearings about the remap.
If you've followed the stories about this we already know what the deal is. Basically the blacks of Chicago who have lost 180,000+ and the Latinos have gained 25,000+ people. Of course the Asians don't have enough numbers to justify giving that ethnic group their own ward. Also I read that even the city's Polish community want their own ward.
On a recent sunny afternoon, "John," 25, was hanging out at the Lake Meadows shopping center at 35th and King Drive in Bronzeville. He is a new resident of the city's oldest black neighborhood, formed in the first quarter of the 20th century by southern migrants searching for better jobs and living conditions in the North. John is also a migrant: he moved to Bronzeville from southwestern China earlier this year. And, in doing so, he became part of the slow breakdown in the racial order of Chicago that has been taking place for the last few decades.
It is not news that this city, like most northern industrial metropolises, is an especially egregious case of American racial segregation. Separation was never explicitly enforced by law, but restrictive housing covenants, social pressure, and violence, both random and coordinated, managed to create very real boundaries outside of which few blacks dared to live. Successive waves of migrants following World War II expanded the black ghetto to encompass much of the south and west sides of the city, while the severity of segregation worsened.
But it is less often noted that since peaking around 1970, black segregation in Chicago has been on a slow, but notable, decline. Now, new data from the 2010 Census gives an in-depth portrait of a still-divided city's tentative steps away from the kind of apartheid that earned it the nickname "Beirut on the Lake" in the 1980s. In neighborhoods like Bronzeville and Woodlawn on the South Side and Garfield Park on the West Side, white, Latino and Asian Chicagoans have cracked open the door to integration. Likewise, black families have started to move into pockets of the northwest and southwest sides where African Americans often made up less than one percent of residents just ten years ago. In some of these places, African American populations have grown by factors of two, three, or even ten since 2000.
In These Times senior editor Salim Muwakkil, as part of a series called "The Other Chicago", has published a piece, "Black Chicago Divided" looking into how the recession has sharpened a class division among black Chicagoans, and in particular is starting to turn many young black Chicagoans against institutional leadership. Muwakkil sees growing discontent and rage among a generation that has even fewer opportunities than their parents had, with little to no help coming from elites. In his piece he highlights the variety of opinions about the efficacy of current leadership, their goals and practices. In general, Muwakkil identifies a failure of elite leadership in Chicago to work for greater prosperity.
GB has already cited this great story by Ward Room's Ted McClelland, but I would like to give it a little longer treatment because it's so well written and speaks to an issue that we generally, for some reason, just tacitly accept: that Chicago, heart of the bluest of the blue counties in the country, is deeply segregated. In fact, the third most segregated city, by the Census' count.
McClelland, working for the Census, found some hope while working in Rogers Park. Head over to Salon and read the whole thing; here's just a taste:
Chicago's famed racial segregation goes back nearly a century. When blacks arrived here from Mississippi and Alabama to build weapons for the World War I doughboys, they were forced to live in a narrow strip of land known as the Black Belt. The ghetto finally burst open in the 1950s and '60s, consuming most of the South and West sides, despite Mayor Richard J. Daley's efforts to hold back the tide by crowding blacks into housing projects and walling off their neighborhoods with highways. The city is roughly a third white, a third black and a third Hispanic, but most Chicagoans live in neighborhoods no more diverse than Ireland, Nigeria or Mexico. In some places, you can drive under a viaduct and see the world turn a different color. Chicago's greatest monument to segregation is a 12-foot-tall berm that carries the Burlington Northern Railroad through the Southwest Side. It separates Lawndale, a once-Jewish neighborhood that "turned" in the 1950s, from Little Village, an old Eastern European neighborhood that is now Hispanic. The Poles and Ukrainians established the tracks as a racial barrier, especially after Lawndale went up in flames following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. The custom has persisted with the new residents: South of the tracks, it's 97 percent Hispanic; on the other side of the tracks, it's 89 percent black.
WBEZ broke a big story yesterday, releasing a video that appears to show two Chicago Police Department officers engaging in what the station describes as "questionable" behavior. Standing outside a squad car, the officers allow a large group of men to gather closely around the open back door to hurl insults as well as apparent gang signs and slogans at another man, who is visibly shaken, in the back of the cruiser.
The radio station posted the story yesterday, showing the tape along with some words by staffers Steve Edwards and Robert Wildeboer and the station's Pritzker Fellow Samuel Vega, who first found the clip. (Watch the video at WBEZ's site.)
Vega says he first came across the video on Facebook. Assuming it would be quickly pulled, he ripped the video, downloading it to his computer. As he predicted, the video and the user account did disappear within a few days--leaving Vega the only one known to have a copy of the tape besides its original owner.
The CPD responded to WBEZ's request for comment late last night:
Congressman Danny Davis dropped out of the race for the Mayoralty on Friday, endorsing Carol Mosley-Braun, achieving through attrition what Black civic leaders were unable to achieve through acclamation, a "unity" candidate for Black voters.
Greg Hinz, on his blog at Crain's, laments the playing of the "race card" by Black candidates, saying, "Imagine the reaction if a bunch of white ward bosses had met with the stated goal of selecting one white candidate."
This canard stinks enough now for disposing. There are a number of things one needs to imagine before this thought experiment is properly controlled. Imagine first, for example, that white ward bosses represented city residents who made up about 75% of murder victims; imagine next that those white ward bosses represented city residents still living in neighborhoods that were typically 90-98% racially homogeneous as a legacy of segregation; imagine also that those white ward bosses represented wards where the unemployment rate was double that of the other wards. Suppose those white ward bosses were also hearing from their constituents about how the infant mortality rate was approaching Third World levels in their wards. Perhaps those white ward bosses would then have more incentive to work together under a consensus that wasn't merely, "Keep the other race out of power."
The hunt for a "consensus candidate" to represent the African American community in the forthcoming mayoral election ended several weeks ago. Few outside the inner circle of the decisionmaking body of the Chicago Coalition for Mayor, made up of many prominent African American politicians in the city, know how the consensus was reached, and at first, no one seemed very forthcoming with details of the process. But an incredible little interview on Vocalo.org with one of the process's participants slipped almost entirely under everyone's radar last week, despite the inside look it gives on how the candidate was chosen.
But let's rewind for a second. How did this "consensus candidate" sausage get made? Everyone acknowledges that it's a messy process--the very idea entails boiling down all of the complexities of a large, diverse community, with all its different ideas and interests, into one candidate who supposedly represents all of them--but there are few insider accounts of how the actual process went down. Enter: Cooper's appearance on The Barber Shop Show last week.
Few seem to have noticed Cooper's appearance on the show. (I only found it while lazily perusing Vocalo's web site and deciding to listen to some old episodes of The Barber Shop Show.) Which is strange, given Cooper's incredible candor as he provides some intimate details of what it meant to enter into the "consensus candidate" process. Observe a few choice quotes:
The things that the coalition said to me...certainly implied, "We're going to make it impossible for you to get even a dime."
The coalition made it clear that it would destroy any black person who dared run against "the Consensus Candidate."
The individuals involved in the coalition made some very, very serious threats... essentially, we will destroy you, we'll make sure you don't get name recognition, we'll work against you.
Cooper goes as far as naming a few names during the interview. His honesty and openness in discussing the behind-the-scenes action in local politics is almost shocking in a city where political decisionmaking has historically been done with little transparency.
In the middle of the interview, Cooper says, "I'm young, and if I plan to have a future in Chicago politics, I really need to be careful about making members of the coalition angry." If that's the case, he better hope no one from the coalition minds his airing of their dirty laundry on-air.
To hear Cooper's interview, listen to the first segment of The Barber Shop Show here.
Democrats rallied on the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park on Saturday evening for the "Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama." The estimated 35,000 attendees heard performances by Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot and hip-hop artist Common, as well as speeches by a variety of officials and citizens, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin, State Treasurer and US Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Governor Pat Quinn, Alderman and Cook County President Candidate Toni Preckwinkle and -- of course -- President Barack Obama.
A photo essay of the event by David Schalliol is below.
With an open Mayoral seat, Chicagoans a generation removed from the last competitive election for that office are unsure of their footing. The media is either causing or reflecting that confusion, unsure where to start an analysis of what this election "means," what will determine its outcome, who the players are. Path of least resistance: we focus on the personalities running, the staff they're hiring, the money they're raising. Is this a new chance at democracy? Have we had democracy all along? Does Chicago need a strong hand? Or are we looking for the next Harold? White? Black? Latino? Man? Woman? Gay? Straight? Machine? Progressive?
The cat's away. The mice are frantic.
"Progressives" are eager to make this election a change election, to "take the city back" from what they perceive as decades of corporatist policies under Daley's leadership. Their archenemy is Rahm Emanuel, the insider's insider who has openly mocked progressive leadership nationally and who made a curious insta-fortune on Wall Street after his years in the Clinton White House. And, it should be noted, who made his bones raising money for Mayor Daley. Whet Moser of the Reader directs us to a painfully prescient piece by David Moberg from those days, wherein Moberg by simply looking at Daley the Younger's fundraising deduces that the "new Machine" will be run by big money rather than neighborhood patronage.
CBS 2: Daley Mentored Others as He Shaped Chicago: But he's still "absolutely the best mayor in the country," Berry said. "Nationally there's no question he's been probably one of the most successful and important big-city mayors in the last couple decades."
Progress Illinois: Shift Expected at CAPS: The ground continues to shift at the Chicago Police Department. On Thursday, outgoing Mayor Richard Daley said he wanted civilians rather than uniformed police officers to run the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Ron Holt, the CAPS director, told the Tribune that too many of the 200 to 300 officers assigned to CAPS were doing administrative and civilian tasks. Many are expected to be reassigned to patrol work.
In These Times Working Blog: Hotel Quickie Strikes Build Union, Workers' Determination for Contract Battles: Workers in Chicago, like most of these cities, are responding with overwhelming strike authorization votes, protest rallies, sit-ins and civil disobedience, campaigns to persuade organizations and individuals to boycott certain hotels, and-last week-a planned one-day strike against hotel union UNITE HERE's national target, Hyatt, in four cities.
People of Color Organize!: Solidarity With Whittier School Occupation: The Whittier Parents' Committee has been organizing for seven years to push Pilsen alderman Daniel Solis to allocate some of the estimated $1 billion in Mayor Daley's TIF coffers to their school for a school expansion - he finally agreed to give $1.4million of TIF funds for school renovation. Cynically, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has earmarked a part of this money for the destruction of the school's field house, which has been used for years as a center for community organizing and services. This would directly undermine the ability of the Whittier community to organize and struggle for educational rights. Parents are demanding to be part of the decision-making process.
Austin Talks: March against violence challenges community to fight back: Graham urged residents to take a stand against gun, gang and domestic violence. Rev. Jennie Jones of Pleasant Ridge Missionary Baptist Church led the group in prayer and pleaded for strength in the fight against violence plaguing Austin.
Chicago Union News: Adjunct faculty at Chicago college cries foul while trying to organize: With only a few weeks until fall classes begin, some part-time instructors at East-West University in Chicago's South Loop are still waiting to see if they will be hired back to teach after what has been a "messy" summer-long conflict involving efforts to unionize.
Chicago consistently ranks among the most racially segregated cities in the country--which shouldn't surprise anyone who has traversed the city with their eyes open. But Chicago Breaking News is reporting a particularly bold case of alleged racial discrimination by two white homeowners in the Bridgeport neighborhood who, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, agreed to sell a home to a black couple for $1.7 million, then inexplicably took the home off the market.
According to the complaint, Lowe [the sellers' real estate agent] said in an interview while under oath that while he was representing the Sabbias [the sellers], Daniel Sabbia told Lowe "he would prefer not to sell the home to an African-American, though he qualified the testimony, saying 'but if it was for the right price he did not care who bought the house.' "
George Willborn, a local comedian who was attempting to buy the house with his wife, summed up his feelings on the case:
"It's amazing that in 2010, in this day and age, this type of thing is still going on."
Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series on housing by Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor. Read part one.
In the spring of 1968, in Presentation Church on the West Side of Chicago, a Black woman named Ruth Wells became known as the "Rosa Parks of Lawndale."
In a hastily organized meeting by Jesuit seminarians, Wells stood up and told of how she and her husband were being financially crushed under the burden of trying to keep up with monthly contract payments to pay off their house.
In Chicago, as a result of racism and redlining, it was virtually impossible for African Americans to get a standard mortgage with affordable interest rates. Instead, Blacks were often forced to purchase their homes "on contract" -- the way one would buy a refrigerator or television. Unlike mortgage holders, who build equity in their homes, contract buyers were considered tenants. If they missed a payment, they could be evicted.
A group of 24 Chicago religious and community leaders were arrested as they blocked a bus carrying immigrants on their way to deportation from a detention center in Broadview this morning.
A crowd of about 150 held a vigil near the center's entrance that began last night. Labor, community, and religious groups repeatedly denounced the deportations carried out behind them, Arizona's tough new immigration bill SB 1070, and what they described as President Obama's inaction on immigration reform.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele makes Joe Biden look gaffe proof. It seems like every time you turn around on CNN, or load up Huffington Post, Steele is explaining how the Republican Party is the party of one-armed-midgets, Republicans fought to outlaw slavery in the Bill of Rights (it was actually the 13th amendment, not the first 10), and apologizing to Rush Limbaugh.
Which is why I went to the Chairman's appearance at DePaul University. I appreciate good stand up comedy.
Steele's appearance was sponsored by the campus Republicans and the DePaul Cultural Center. An odd combination considering that the Conservative Alliance had once sponsored an Affirmative Action Bake Sale targeting the cultural center and organized pickets against the speakers the Cultural Center invited such as Ward Churchill.
Steele is the first Black person to be the national chairman of the RNC and was to speak on Conservatisms appeal to minority communities. Instead he talked about its lack of an appeal.
When asked , "Why should Blacks vote Republican?" Steele responded without hesitation, "You really don't have a reason to, to be honest. We really haven't really done a good job of giving them a reason to... We have failed miserably in that regard. We have lost sight of the historic integral link between the party and African Americans."
The growing number of mortgage foreclosures in African American communities has not only created a housing crisis among Black homeowners, but one for Black renters in properties where the owner has defaulted as well.
According to several recent news reports, the number of foreclosures on multifamily rental dwellings across the country is growing. The Washington Post noted that in Washington, D.C., some 475 foreclosure proceedings were initiated against owners of multifamily rental properties during the first three quarters of 2009, versus 458 for all of 2008.
In Los Angeles, 78 buildings with five or more units--a total of 1,344 units--were in foreclosure in the first three quarters of 2009, versus 49 buildings with 432 units in all of 2008 and 13 buildings in 2007.
In New York City, housing experts predict that between 50,000 and 100,000 units of housing are at risk because of "upside down loans"--that is, when owners owe more on their mortgages than the value of the property.
The Post also noted that across the country, between 65 and 75 percent of multifamily buildings could "face problems refinancing at their current rates," raising the specter of a wave of foreclosures directly affecting the rental market. In Chicago, the Chicago Reporter found that two of every three small apartment buildings foreclosed upon are in African American neighborhoods.
Of course, the wave of foreclosures has already had a particularly harsh impact on African American renters. Blacks, especially women, are especially vulnerable to the perils of evictions, and the foreclosure crisis has made that danger even more acute.
For example, the research of sociologist Mathew Desmond on evictions in Milwaukee has shown that while Black women make up 13 percent of the population in the city, they account for more than 40 percent of those who are evicted from rental residences. The New York Times noted similar numbers in other cities.
Many of these evictions of renters are the result of unemployment and other problems created by the recession. But the foreclosure crisis has affected renters who are able to pay their rent.
Activists demonstrate against the Westboro Baptist Church.
The Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that chartered themselves as a church to get away with their harassment of Queer groups, Jews, military families and others, conducted a tour of Chicago on March 8th.
The group of five lonely haters targeted Jewish centers, protesting everything more modern than the middle ages at Hillel's at UIC and the University of Chicago before holding their signs outside of the Israeli consulate.
Hundreds of queer rights activists rallied against the Westboro group. Activists used humorous and satirical signs to mock WBC. UIC student Jason Connell used the appearance of the hate group to raise money for queer rights groups such as Human Rights Campaign, International AIDS Foundation and Chicago based Jerusalem Open House. Donations were named in honor of the Westboro Baptist Church and community thank you cards will be sent from the non-profits to WBC leader Fred Phelps. Connell called it a, "Lemons to Lemonade" situation.
Kurt Esslinger Lee, an Presbyterian ordained minister from the UIC Agape House Christian Campus Ministry said, "We don't care so much about this group of hate, we know that they are not going to listen to anything we say. What we are care about is the closeted, afraid LGBTQ students around UIC who are are taught to hate themselves to think that god is also loathing them, so we reaching out to them to break through that ignorance."
Activists demonstrate against the Westboro Baptist Church.
Public sector workers were once among the most abused members of the labor force. It was when Dr. King turned his attention to the working class--to fighting on behalf of the working classes of all races--that he became intolerable to the status quo.
He was standing with AFSCME workers in Memphis when he was murdered. Today the constant assault on the public sector workers is just an echo of the eternal assault by the right wing against the rights of the working class. Back then, it was the public sector workers that were dragging down the working conditions and wages of the heavily unionized private sector; today, the situation is reversed. Ignore the crocodile tears of the right wing ideologues about taxpayers' money. Breaking the back of workers' organizations is the ultimate goal of the right wing, wherever those organizations exist.
This flier represents some of the nastiest identity politics. I've madecomments 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:
Rich Miller mentions the flyer in terms of the news that Rep. Bobby Rush, who he says is "infamous for his race-baiting ways," will endorse Stroger. Then goes back and says that Rush would "have a tough time topping a group called 'Soldiers for Stroger,' headed by Gator Bradley, which is distributing some pretty nasty fliers on behalf of the board president."
For the County Board President's part in this story, at least he is attempting to keep himself distant from the messages on these flyers:
The Stroger campaign released a statement late last night denying any involvement.
"The Stroger for President campaign did not produce or distribute the flyers in question. The Stroger campaign does not endorse or condone this type of behavior or activity," it said.
I posted here a video about Black religious leaders attempting to drum up support for Todd Stroger. The concern there as it appears to be here is that without Stroger, blacks could lose the County Board presidency.
You know it just seems so easy to pull the race card!
Danny Davis will announce this morning that he will seek reelection for his 7th District Congressional seat. Davis' announcement didn't come with any endorsement, but he did say that at least part of his reasoning was not wanting to split the black vote among four black challengers.
We all have our feelings about Todd Stroger and the job he's doing since he became county board president in 2006. Today we find out that the state House has voted in favor of a bill to reduce the threshold for overriding a veto from fourth/fifths of county commissioners to three/fifths but also were unable to roll back the seemingly unpopular penny on the dollar sales tax.
This video from ABC7 is really old news from yesterday. Stroger got one out of two today, but seemingly got a decent boost with this endorsement yesterday. In endorsing Stroger for re-election to the county board president slot, they called for Rep. Danny Davis, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, and circuit court Clerk Dorothy Brown to remain in their current position.
Even with this boost Todd Stroger has a long way up. Watch this video interview Stroger did in Springfield with Rich Miller at the CapFax, it's indicated here by Miller. Check out this report from Mike Flannery, it's indicated there as well. Danny Davis says he has polling that has him leading Todd Stroger in an election in both videos from ABC7 and Mike Flannery.
Either way in making this endorsement the ministers know that most of the people in their congregation may well listen to them. Indeed in wanting to clear the field of the black challengers, they want to be sure that a black will remain in the position of county board president. There is a white challenger in Terrence O'Brien who currently sits on the Water Reclamation District.
Well, there is a question in my mind. Were these ministers wise in endorsing Stroger in this race? Couldn't they have endorsed any of the challengers?
Now people are wondering: Does the policy of school "turnarounds" that guts schools of all its leadership, denigrates teachers, alienates parents from schools, and destabilizes school life for kids, have something to do with the increased chaos and poor performance? (Yes.)
Was Arne Duncan not only ineffective but detrimental to our schools? If so, then how the hell did he get a promotion?
The tragic beating death of Derrion Albert of Fenger High School brought national media attention to Chicago's failing schools. Electing a guy who was a "community organizer from the south side of Chicago" will get you that kind of attention. They are starting to ask the question we've been asking here: what qualified Arne Duncan to be the national leader of our public schools, other than his playing basketball with the President?
An April study by the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project found that the number of African Americans incarcerated for drug offenses dropped 21.6 percent nationwide from 1999 to 2005, while the number of white drug offenders increased by 42.6 percent during the same period.
Of course, the study is an evaluation state incarceration rates, not federal rates. And while the rate of incarceration federally increased for blacks, it tracked similarly for whites and Latinos, no change there. Nor did drug use rates change--generally. But they did drop for crack-cocaine a drug that, unlike marijuana, will nearly always result in arrest if you're caught possessing it. The drop in incarceration reflected to a significant degree drops in arrest rates and convictions for blacks caught up in drug offenses.
The study also tries to find a reason for the huge upsurge in incarceration of whites for drug offenses:
First, we have seen over time that drug offense arrest rates are largely a function of law enforcement practices, rather than absolute levels of drug use or selling.
This is interesting. What institutions nationally help determine the practices of local law enforcement agencies?
Rich Miller wrote a syndicated column about the current state Senate Majority Leader that he posted onto his blog on Monday. Last year when then Senate Pres. Emil Jones (you may know him as Obama's political mentor when our current president was in the Illinois state Senate) announced his retirement, I outright hoped that Clayborne could become the new Senate president. One reason I would have been OK was because he was a downstater, every leadership position was taken by someone who lived in the Chicago area. The fact that he was also black should've sweetened the deal somewhat.
It didn't, hence the fact that Clayborne is the majority leader in the state senate. It was sort of a deal, a consolation prize for not being Senate President. But it seems he wants another prize, our state governorship.
Perhaps since 1994, Illinois has seen a black person (well it has often been black males) who have attempted to run for Governor. I often mentioned Roland Burris (Illinois current US Senator) who ran for Governor on three occasions between 1994 thru 2002. Then there was state Sen. James Meeks who mulled a run against Ousted governor, but decided against it because Ousted governor seemed to become serious about the issue of education funding.
Now it could be Clayborne! I did just mention that Clayborne is from downstate, but that is certainly a contrast to Burris and Meeks who reside in the city of Chicago. Sometimes I forget that there are blacks in other parts of the state, in fact I think I have relatives in East St. Louis (well that's about the area Clayborne resides) or at the very least a familial connection to that city. Still I wonder what that means if he's serious about his gubernatorial bid.
Rich Miller has this about him:
On paper, Clayborne would be a fascinating candidate, especially if he is the only African-American in the contest.
Sen. Clayborne is not the sort of Democrat that Chicago media types are accustomed to seeing. He's a downstate attorney with a pretty solid pro-business voting record who is also regularly endorsed by organized labor.
He's pro-gun, but he's also pro-choice. He ran and lost for senate president last year, and the campaign exposed some rifts with his fellow black senators, partly over his strong rating from the National Rifle Association.
Well as a Chicago Black, I have no problem with his support for Gun Rights, Miller however, brings up some recent gubernatorial history:
Gun owner rights are not usually very popular with Democratic primary voters, and particularly with Chicago blacks. Pro-gun southern white Glenn Poshard was able to win the Democratic nomination in 1998, although that issue was used against him in the fall by Republican George Ryan. Just about every likely Republican nominee strongly favors the National Rifle Association's view of things, so that issue might not hurt Clayborne as much as it did Poshard if he manages to win the primary.
We'll see, but the entry of a downstate Black in the Gubernatorial race is going to be interesting. Besides this race is about excitement with the idea being that our next governor might take this state into another direction. Perhaps a break from our most recent past with two recent governors running afoul of the law. One was arrested and sent to a federal pen, and the other arrested by federal agents then impeached and Ousted from office.
I outlined the idea of a 2010 gubernatorial candidate with a bold vision in another post largely about Dan Profit (running as a GOP candidate for Governor). I would like to see a bold vision perhaps a man like Clayborne, who is said to have pro-business credentials, might be an answer. I hope to see what he may run on, if he does run.
You know I should just dust off my post about looking like a Governor. I should ask this question about Clayborne, does he look like a Governor. What do you think out there?
I visited my favorite (slightly overpriced) bakery in Hyde Park yesterday. The bakery had a white 8.5"x11" sign on the door that usually portends some sort of neighborhood crime alert, which it did. Surprisingly, the sign was not about a rash of burglaries or strong-arm robberies, but rather to alert us to the fact that panhandling is a crime and that we should call 911 if we witness it happening.
I left the bakery quite conflicted as I chewed on some flaky, buttery, chocolaty goodness. On the one hand, that stretch of 57th Street, while nowhere near the panhandling obstacle course other stretches of real estate in Chicago can be (I love working downtown during the Taste of Chicago, don't you?), it is still, or at least was, home to a couple of pretty aggressive men scamming for change. They were generally less annoying or vaguely threatening as the gentlemen who pull you aside and tell you their life story, but still it was always important to not make eye contact or at least whip out your cell phone while walking that block, a strategy which doesn't seem to work with the Environment Illinois folks, incidentally. There is something to be said for just being able to walk down the street on a nice summer day and not have to be made to feel guilty for not having some spare change.
On the other hand, is annoying people on the street really a crime? At some point, yes, some professional panhandlers can get aggressive and down right scary, but if we make panhandling a crime in general, then what other options do those folks have? Should they just "get a job," should we foist them off on an already overburdened social welfare system, should we lock them up in some sort of modern-day debtors-prison? I suspect that part of the annoyance that panhandlers bring for a lot of us is the ambiguous moral and ethical position they put us in every time we walk by them. I know I am privileged to live in a nice neighborhood and suckle at the teat of the social welfare system of the university. I know that families, men and women live all around me who can't say the same, who have to bust their humps and hustle just for a Polish and a pop, I just wish they wouldn't intrude on my world to do so. And so I am left with, much like I imagine most of us are, no overwhelming set of principles to guide every action, just the ambiguity of every individual experience with panhandling demanding a different reaction.
Maybe I should just see it as a character-building exercise. The persistence of the urban poverty and inequality that leaves so many with no (perceived or real) option other than to beg for charity outside bakeries in the bright light districts is only matched by our efforts to put that poverty and inequality on reservations as far away from our imagined communities of prosperity as possible. Maybe it's an advantage of city living to have to deal with it. Or maybe I should just not carry cash and always have an excuse.
I can't believe I missed this column. I normally like Mary Mitchell, but I don't always think to check out her columns anymore. Not sure why, but this column from last month was pretty good.
BTW, I'm not sure if I'm reading this correctly, but I see on her blog that she's suffering from cancer and was successfully treated for that. That's great news and I expect nothing less than to be able to read her columns for the foreseeable future.
Anyway back to her column:
Obviously, President Obama can't read the tons of mail he receives. But there's one letter floating around the White House that I hope he reads.
That letter is from Edward G. Gardner, a prominent Chicago businessman and the founder of Black on Black Love, the city's pioneering anti-violence campaign.
Gardner is asking Obama to send federal troops to urban areas that are now under siege by domestic terrorists fighting gang wars.
Our children are dying in the streets.
Yet so far more attention has been paid to the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If we are to achieve a real equality, the U.S. will have to adopt a modified form of socialism.
History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
"I think all discussion of race is a painful diversion," Rev. Jackson said Wednesday when asked whether he agreed with U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, that the job should go to an African-American.
"Roland's case is a legal case, it isn't about his race, or gender or religion," Rev. Jackson said. "Does the governor have the power to appoint a successor, yes or no? I think yes."
The veteran Civil Rights activist, whose son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago, was widely seen as a potential candidate to fill the slot, praised Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general and comptroller. "He's always been an outstanding public servant operating with great credibility," Rev. Jackson said. "There's almost a consensus on his reputation. The issue has been the governor, not Roland."
Hmm, I think we could have used Jackson's input during the whole race-baiting episode. He waited until it looked like Burris might actually get his seat!
By all accounts, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is on the "short list" of possibilities to fill Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for the next two years. Some newspapers and activists have been actively lobbying for Gov. Blagojevich, who has sole discretion in the decision, to appoint Jackson.