Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chicago Politics: Post-Racial?

Yesterday was election day in Chicago (surely in other places as well) and a couple of the election results were historic. The biggest newsmaker was the election of Rahm Emanuel as our new Mayor. Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the U.S., so the person in the Mayor’s seat has a great deal of responsibility and power. Chicago is known for its corrupt politics . . . I’ve said that in a system so corrupt, you can’t survive and operate without being a part of or at the very least allowing corruption. We’ll see if any of that changes under Rahm (which is what people call him, by the way – not Emanuel – even his campaign signs say RAHM in large letters, where most campaigns emphasize the candidate’s last name).

Rahm Emanuel and his RAHM FOR MAYOR sign.

Rahm’s election was historic in a couple of ways. First, he’s not a Daley!

Richard J. Daley

Richard J. Daley was the Mayor of Chicago from 1955 until 1976, when he died. His story is very interesting, you can read the highlights here. He was the Mayor who held the second-longest term in Chicago – his son, Richard M. Daley beat him – he was Mayor from 1989 until . . . well, he’s still our Mayor. Rahm will take over for him in May. Learn more about him here.

Richard M. Daley

Second, Rahm is Jewish – he will be Chicago’s first Jewish Mayor. He’s also spent time as Obama’s Chief of Staff, as an advisor to Clinton, and as a congressman. His entire family is interesting, but you might enjoy the fact that Jeremy Piven’s character in Entourage is based on Rahm’s brother Ari, who is an agent in Hollywood.

Another historic election result was Chicago’s first Indian-American alderman (alderman are kind of like neighborhood Mayors), Ameya Pawar, who works at Northwestern University.

Ameya Pawar

He notably ran as an Independent and is only going to accept a $60K salary rather than the standard $110K salary offered to aldermen, and will only serve 2 terms. You can read more about his plans as alderman here.

This article details why Pawar’s win was surprising, and gives you an idea of the cronyism that persists in Chicago politics. I’m having issues with the quote at the end of the article – no one from the neighborhood is from Chicago? Said by a woman from “good Chicago Polish stock”? (FYI, Chicago has the 2nd largest concentration of Polish people in the world – Warsaw has the 1st). I’m definitely one to understand frustration at gentrification, but I hate the implication that is given by tying this quote to a story about the first Indian-American alderman. He’s from the Chicago area yet the implication is that he’s not really from Chicago. Because he’s suburban? Or because he’s Indian?

The reason I began writing this entry is because last night, a newsanchor covering these stories noted that because people of all races voted for Rahm, and because an Indian-American defeated an Irish candidate in a traditionally old-Chicago ward, we are now living in a “post-racial Chicago” . . . Obama’s election was also referenced.

I’m sorry, but we are hardly post-racial. Chicago is an incredibly diverse city – ethnically, racially, socioeconomically. I’m sure we have someone from every corner of the world here. Yes - wards that have traditionally voted for one race or ethnicity voted for non-traditional candidates yesterday – and that’s awesome. But Chicago is also an extremely segregated city, and poverty is greatest in Chicago’s “brownest” neighborhoods. I don’t think we’ll ever live in a post-racial world, country or city, but saying things like this just gives everyone an excuse to stop working toward improvement.

1 comment:

Mandy said...

I miss Chicago politics!

Rahm. I think I'd like to be around for that! I loved Daley though because he was just who he was. Corrupt - ha! I'm sure of it, but he was a good mayor!

Chicago has had a tough few years with a rise in crime again. Wichita has too. I'm disappointed that gangs are so visible again. It will be interesting to watch Rahm over the years. I think it's cool that he used his first name too. I'm sure "Emanuel for Mayor" was a weird phrasing.

In Salina, it's more about is your grass green enough. Things here are so different from where I've been. I like the rest (getting a chance to breath), but I miss the humanity...the raw stuff, ya know?

Oh I think I need to go write...

Anyway, post-racial, nah! I know Chicago is full of racism still, but I tell you what, I also miss people not noticing...or caring about the make-up of my family. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...