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A Post Racial Election Victory for Emanuel in a Racially Divided City

Don Rose 14 March 2011 3 Comments

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


  • Learning Solution – Online Education » Blog Archive » Something to Fight For (author) said:

    […] a third live in poverty. These figures are double and triple those for whites. So says my friend Don Rose (based on data from Megan Cottrel of The Chicago Reporter in a piece titled “Second City or […]

  • Perfecto said:

    This article says a lot about the city, to those who live above it. But to the people who are those statistics, it is old news. Because those statistics represent minorities living in the inner city, don’t expect Rahm to do anything about improving their situation. Oh he will throw a bone to the representatives of those areas that your statistics identify, because that’s how he got their vote, by promising them “some thing” if they got out the vote for him. But he will be true to form and give just enough to make himself feel as if he did “some thing”. Blacks gave their vote to Rahm overwhelmingly and used the reason that he worked for Obama to do it, but what has Obama done for the African American community lately or in the last two years, according to the statistics in this article, nothing.
    Latinos did not fare much better, they split their vote not because one group thought that their’s was a better candidate over the other, but to seek political gain. Latinos had a chance to make history and vote a true Latino, Del Valle not Chico as mayor and thanks to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, blew it. But the real same of it all is that those in most need of good and fair leadership in order to improve their lives lost out on a chance to do something about it because they were afraid to try something new, vote to change the status quo.

  • John Derbyshire vs. Robert Weissberg on Race, Ethnicity, and the Future of America | White Unity Blog (author) said:

    […] my reader should bring this good news to the citizens ofChicago, or any other big […]

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