A Post Racial Election Victory for Emanuel in a Racially Divided City
We Chicagoans heaped a pile of self-congratulations on ourselves in the wake of a municipal election that saw most racial and ethnic barriers break down. It was the culmination of a healthy trend during most of the decade: a significant decline in the number of whites who would never vote for an African American and the number of blacks who would always choose one of their own regardless of qualifications. To say nothing of killing the canard that Chicago would never elect a Jewish mayor.
One could easily infer that the city’s larger racial problems were ending, which is clearly not the case. It is also the case that the deepest racial problems were not fully aired in the campaign, though the African American candidates and Miguel del Valle, one of two Latinos, would raise but not focus incisively on minority issues, perhaps in the interest of trying to represent “all” of Chicago.
Without debating whether the glass is half empty or half full, things have improved since era of Richard J. Daley, but we are still living with the afflictions of that age of segregation and repression—an age that found virtually every unit of Chicago government, from the school board to the police department to the housing authority to the park district and others in violation of federal civil rights laws and the constitution.
The courts changed most of the worst practices and some reform legislation helped things along. But if you look past the election results, past the glories of Millennium Park, the theater district and many revitalized neighborhoods, there remain major festering wounds of poverty and degradation that rival the underdeveloped world.
Much of this was put into sharp focus by a remarkable series of splendidly researched, census-based essays by the Chicago Reporter magazine’s blogger Megan Cottrell, aptly titled “Second City or Dead Last/”
Here are some of the dismal findings on where we rank:
–The city’s unemployment rate for African Americans is 21.4 percent; triple the white rate and the worst of any ethnic or racial group in the nation’s 10 largest cities. Latinos are not doing much better.
–For every dollar a white Chicagoan earns, an African American makes 45 cents.
–Nearly a third of black Chicagoans live in poverty, triple the percentage of whites. Only Latinos in Philadelphia and Phoenix fare worse.
–We’re the only city among the 10 largest where a higher percentage of whites have graduate degrees than blacks have undergraduate degrees. The percentage of Latinos with a high school diploma is about the same as that of whites with bachelors’ degrees.
–Nearly 56 percent of black Chicagoans aged 16 or older are unemployed or not in the labor force. This is the highest jobless percentage of any racial or ethnic group in the 10 largest cities.
Mayor Emanuel, congratulations on your post-racial victory. Now meet the Chicago that didn’t make it into your campaign commercials.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
The map shows the population of Chicago by race and ethnicity based on 2000 Census Data