As the race to be Chicago’s next mayor continues, I think one thing is certain – the Black candidates and Community have done a disservice to each other. It is no secret that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that racism in Chicago was far worse than anything he had seen in the South. The racial segregation of Chicago has been fodder for conversation every ten years. Yet, a skinny fellow with a funny name from the Hyde Park community has shown the racial wounds and divide of the past can be overcome.
Sadly, the retirement of Mayor Richard M. Daley has moved us back to the pre-Obama Chicago days. What happened? The idea of a “consensus candidate” to avert a repeat of the Eugene Sawyer and Tim Evans divide of the Black vote. Not long after, Black coalitions began to meet to decide who their consensus candidate would be – Clergymen, Businessmen, Activists, and anybody else that wanted to appear significant. The end result was that no consensus was formed.
The “top three” Black candidates told the other hopefuls to step aside for the good of the community. Some of those who called for the “ticket splitters” at the bottom to step aside later did so themselves. The so-called top three in an attempt to shore up the consensus designation have each made serious gaffes. Rev. James Meeks (now out of the race) opined that the term “Minority” should apply only to Blacks. Congressman Danny Davis threatened former president Bill Clinton to not come to Chicago in support of Rahm Emmanuel or lose his relationship with the Black community. And Sen. Carol Moseley Braun accused a Chicago Sun-Times writer of racism.
It is apparent that none of these three candidates recognize that we live in an Obamanized America. Despite his shellacking in November, the president remains the most admired man in America. Americans may not like his politics, but they like his ability to build coalitions across racial lines; and his commitment to racial reconciliation. Once the consensus conversation started, I predicted that no Black candidate would win.
Chicago has a long way to go in race relations, but it is not what it used to be. Politically, the Black community is stuck in the 1960s and 70s. We have not adapted to the new political landscape that no longer survives by getting out your race to win. Chicago has become so diverse that whoever becomes Mayor cannot and will not win the election with the White, Black or Latino vote alone. This process and these candidates have all but ruined that possibility, and it won’t be because of White or Latino racists. It will be because the Black community made race the primary issue in this election.
Isaac Hayes, spokesman for the Coalition of Black Republicans and former GOP nominee for U.S. House in IL second district. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/isaac_hayes.