RAHMSWORLD: Keeping Chicago divided with new racist divide-and-conquer tactics for the 21st Century

The pages of Substance have long been filled with reports about Rahm Emanuel, otherwise known as "Mayor 1%." Weve reported on his rants, his publicity stunts, his lies, his destroying the Chicago Public Schools so he can throw money at his buddies so they can get rich off of setting up charter schools, his mendacious Board of Education, etc., all from an educational perspective. For those just finding Substance, and dont know the history of those of us who have long been fighting for better public schools in Chicago, it can easily look like its a battle between two kids: "my way is better," "no, my way is better! But Chicago's public schools, like those everywhere, don't exist in a vacuum, and in Chicago especially among cities in the North, the context has always been race.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel shows his favorite hand to the crowd at the ground breaking for a new charter schools on the city's Northwest Side that everyone in the community opposed. The "Noble ITW Campus" has been located one block from Prosser High School, one of the city's real public high schools, but despite massive protests, Rahm's appointed Board of Education voted to establish the new school, and Rahm appeared on the dedication day surrounded by millionaires and toadies to praise the controversial charter school. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The 21st Century reality, as shown by Edward McClelland below, is that Mayor 1% really wants to turn Chicago into a city of, by and for the 1%. He does not care about ANY of us outside the 1%, and probably, in reality, anybody outside of the top .01%: he doesnt care about the union ironworker, he doesnt care about the firefighters and cops, he doesnt care about the teachers, he doesnt care about the bar tenders and the barristers, he damn sure doesnt care about reporters, he doesnt care about the CTA workers, he doesn't care about the women and men who work in the grocery stores; he doesn't care about any of us who are unemployed and/or poor. In fact, if he had his way, wed all leave Chicago, except for the few who serve him and his buddies their drinks and food, and do their laundry, and clean their homes. Thems the facts.

For a century or more, Chicago has been a city riven by race. And Rahm and the big boys have long known how to keep whites, Latinos and African Americans at each others throats. While it's no longer like the days of hiring one group to break the strikes of the other, today's it's the Ivy League winners of a Race To The Top hoping to get some of the few good paying jobs that remain because getting one really does make a difference to those who are lucky enough to get them and competing like hell to even be considered.

The sad fact, however, is that those good paying jobs are becoming more and more scarce every day. And jobs that paid well and resulted in working people being treated with some kind of respect, with a good pension at the end, are being wiped out think of all the jobs lost to Mayor 1%s school closings over the last several years.

Yet every day in the Chicago of 2014, we are finding ways to cross the racial lines and build a coalition or a bunch of coalitions that can work together to create a new Chicago, one where everyone is treated with respect; where excellence in education is spread equally across the city; where poverty and inequality and lack of good jobs are addressed head on, and not allowed to fester, where working for the good of each and everyone of us is rewarded fairly and respected.

And thats got to mean we have got to head-on address the issue of racism and white supremacy in this city. Things ARE getting better racially than theyve been before. On a personal level and you can see it among younger people, and especially in racially-integrated schools people are (obviously) still recognizing differences in skin color, etc., but its meaning less and less: younger people are much more likely to treat each other with respect regardless of their differences: and thats exciting to see.

But changes like this, and the fact that we now have Obama and Oprah, lead many peopleespecially whitesto think weve overcome racism. What they want to ignore and/or forget is the INSTITUTIONALIZED racism in this city (and our entire country), the SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION that still exists and affects the lives of every person of color in our city, albeit differentially between those who have money or positions of power, and those who dont. What do I mean by INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM? Again, systematic oppression. This is shown in racially segregated housing which also results in racially segregated schoolsits been a while since Ive looked at the data, but if I remember correctly, something like 80% of Chicagos African American students attend schools that are 95% African African or more! Which, as Jonathan Kozol showed in his 1991 book, SAVAGE INEQUALITY, means so many fewer resources, from teachers, to books, to facilitiessomething like 130 Chicago schools (out of 600 or so) have NO LIBRARY: how in the hell can you have a school without a library???

Were talking about areas where people have worse health, where infant mortality rates are oftentimes DOUBLE that of the entire city; where unemployment is the norm, where poverty is high, where drug and alcohol abuse are rampant; where people have nothing but their self-respect and will often kill if you threaten that. And in Chicago, because of the historic racism, the overwhelming number of areas with these conditions are populated by African Americans and Latinos.

(And for anyone who thinks its THEIR fault, keep in mind that nationally, two out of three people in poverty (65%) are white. White poverty is overwhelmingly rural, dispersed, and not near TV news stations.). And think also: Most of those living in extreme poverty in Rahm Emanuel's Chicago in 2014 are children. Can you really blame a four-year-old for that!?

To say we (as a city) have got to address this racial discrimination and white supremacy does not mean that individual whites have to feel guilty or feel dismissed in any way. It DOES mean, however, that we whites must recognize that weve been used by the rich and powerful to screw over many racial groupings of color, which has obviously hurt them, but because weve been stupid enough to fall for the okey-doke by the rich and powerful, it has hurt us too! The ONLY WAY for whites and everyone else to make things better is if we honestly admit whats going on, and decide from this day forth, were going to consciously repudiate white supremacy and racism, and work to find ways to build a strong, interracial coalition of the 99% for the equal benefit of each and every one of us.

Does this sound all touchy-feely, all pie in the sky? Let me use an example from Chicagos own history. During the Depression, people were working in the stock yards for something about 36 cents an hour for males, 26 cents and hour for females. The workforce was made up mainly of white ethnics from Eastern and Southern Europe, African Americans from the rural South, and Mexicans. The work week was about 53-54 hours a week, generally nine hours a day, six days a week. You were entitled to one week of vacation after five YEARS, but the meatpacking companies often found ways to fire workers just before they reached five years, so they lost their vacations.

And this was hard, back-breaking labor, in terrible conditions, with sharp knives, slick floors (from animal fat and blood), in the heat and cold of Chicagoterrible conditions. Well, workers organized and built first the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee in 1937 and eventually the United Packinghouse Workers of America in 1943.

They did it by directly confronting white supremacy and racism. And by 1939, in racist, segregated Chicago, out of 14 local packinghouse unions, 8 were headed by African Americans. They didnt just talk the talk; they walked the walk. The Packinghouse Workers ended discrimination in jobs, but also ended discrimination against job applicants! They integrated the packinghouse jobs entirely, including the skilled trades. They included African Americans at all levels of leadership across the union. In 1953, because of the power of the union in Chicago, they forced Armour Meatpacking Company to desegregate their Birmingham, Alabama plantand this was two years BEFORE Rosa Parks made her stand in Montgomery!

By 1962, the Packinghouse Workers NATIONALLY had anti-discrimination language in 100% of all their union contractsthe ONLY union in the United States to have achieved that. [NOTE: The Packinghouse Workers werent perfect; while being much better than the large majority of unions in fighting for equality and equal treatment for women, unfortunately they never attacked sexism with the same energy and dedication that they attacked racism and white supremacy; an attack that was exemplary!]

Im not saying it will be easywell probably all piss each other off at one time or the other. But weve got to make this effort our passion, our mission. Weve have either got to come together, recognize our strengths and our weaknesses, forgive our pasts once honestly recognized, and build for our children and their futures, and weve got to take this city from the 1%. Cause if we dont, Rahms dreams will become our nightmares as were moved out of the city we love.

Kim Scipes, Ph.D., Chair, Chicago Chapter, National Writers Union, UAW #1981

Now Its Time to Talk About Chicagos Tale of Two Cities, By Edward McClelland. January 27, 2014. PORTSIDE@LISTS.PORTSIDE.ORG. Portside moderator Substance readers will enjoy Portside every day. Originally published in The American Prospect.

From The American Prospect

Rahm Emanuels economic politics put him at the far right wing of the Democratic Party and out of step with the current breed of populist big-city leadership. Rahm Emanuel, Spencer Irvine/AIM,

Rahm Emanuel has a favorite four-letter word for members of the labor movement. When Emanuel was White House chief of staff, he was told that tens of thousands of autoworkers could lose their jobs if General Motors and Chrysler didnt receive a federal bailout. His response: Fuck the UAW. As mayor of Chicago, Emanuel became so enraged during negotiations with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, that he shouted Fuck you, Lewis. (The teachers went on strike for seven days, claiming Emanuel had disrespected them, as well as tried to force them to work longer hours after reneging on a promised pay raise.)

Few political figures contributed more to the Democrats realignment from a party of working people to a party of Wall Street than Emanuel. The New Democrats of the 1990s responded to the weakness of the labor movement by shifting their donor base from unions to socially liberal financiers. Emanuel was Bill Clintons point man on shepherding the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress. After leaving the White House, he earned $16 million in a two-and-a-half year career as an investment banker. In 2006, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he helped the party win control of the House of Representatives by recruiting anti-abortion, anti-gun control Democrats in swing districts.

When Michael Bloomberg announced he would retire after twelve years in charge of New York City, it looked as though Emanuel would take his place as the nations pre-eminent mayor. Then came Bill de Blasio, whose campaign sloganthat New York has become two cities, one for the wealthy and one for the poorwas a repudiation of the governing style shared by both Bloomberg and Emanuel. By campaigning as the candidate of the 99 percent, de Blasio not only ensured he would step out of his successors shadow, he set himself up as Emanuels rival in influencing Democratic politics. De Blasio was sworn in by Emanuels old patron, Bill Clinton. Also on hand was Hillary, who may be forced to repudiate Clintonomics if she wants to win the presidential nomination of a party taking up the cause of those on the wrong side of an economic divide widened by the Great Recession.

Emanuel is firmly in control of Chicago, where he has already raised $5 million for next years mayoral election. His only plausible opponent, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, has announced shes staying in her current job. (The teachers union has vowed to recruit a pro-labor challenger, but no one has stepped forward yet.)

But even as he consolidates power at home, Emanuel is in danger of becoming an anachronism in the Democratic Party, and among big-city mayors. In the fall of 2011, during the height of the Occupy movement, I wrote a blog post labeling Emanuel Mayor 1%, for his embrace of the financial industry. The nickname caught on, first appearing on buttons, then as the title of a biography by Chicago journalist Kari Lydersen. Lewis, the teachers union president, blurbed the book: Mayor 1% provides the reader with the ability to understand the hard line, neoliberal mindset that blinds the man to the harsh realities of entrenched poverty and disenfranchisement.

The term neo-liberalism was coined by University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman, and Emanuel has made it the citys governing philosophy. His mayoralty been characterized by antagonism toward the labor unions who now constitute his political opposition. And hes been accused of practicing gentry liberalism, an economic development strategy that consists of pouring resources into the wealthiest parts of town, in hopes of attracting professional talent, while neglecting poor outlying neighborhoods.

Last year, Emanuel instituted a bike share program that serves only the lakefront, while closing 53 schools on the poorer South and West sides. He is also planning to spend $92 million on a basketball arena for DePaul University. The mayors civic investments are deepening the economic divide in a city that has been losing middle class jobs and residents since the steel mills closed in the 1980s.

Emanuel is socially liberal, endorsing gay marriage and fighting the National Rifle Associations attempts to weaken Chicagos gun laws. But economically, he stands at the far right wing of the Democratic Party. That puts him out of step with the current breed of populist big-city leadership. This does not just include de Blasio, who has promised to expand New Yorks living wage, provide more affordable housing, and stop the use of credit scores in hiring decisions.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants a $15 minimum wage. The Washington, D.C., City Council raised the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour and extended the citys sick leave law to restaurant workers, and an ordinance before the Los Angeles City Council would raise the minimum wage for hotel employees to $15.37 an hour. Emanuel would quash any such proposal by the Chicago City Council, just as his predecessor, Richard M. Daley, did when he vetoed an ordinance that would have required big box stores to pay their employees a living wage and benefits.

Chicagos divisions are microcosms of the globalization that is creating a two-tiered society in this country. Thirty years ago, the city was a run-down industrial center that seemed headed for the same Rust Belt ash heap as Cleveland and Buffalo. Today, its an Alpha World city, a financial and consulting capital with some of the nations best theater and restaurants (not to mention the home town of the most powerful man in the world). But only a third of the population lives in that Global Chicago. The Second City has its own Second Cityblack and Latino, occupying run-down, underserved neighborhoods far from the lake, interacting with the well-off only to bus their tables or drive their cabs. The city lost 200,000 residents in the last decade, mainly due to the demolition of public housing. But the Loop, the downtown neighborhood with a median household income of $78,124, nearly doubled in population. Chicago may have fewer people, but it has more of the people Emanuel wants.

That divide shows up in the maldistribution of violence, too. In West Garfield Park, a monolithically African-American drug marketplace on the West Side, where the city is mordantly called Chiraq, the murder rate is 85.2 per 100,000. In Lincoln Square, the mayors North Side neighborhood of bakeries, bookstores, used record shops, and eyewear boutiques, its 1.7. A study by a University of Chicago graduate student found that in the early 1990s (when Chicago had 900 murders a year), the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago were six times more violent than the safest neighborhoods. Today, the most dangerous neighborhoods are 15 times more violent. Last year, Chicago had its fewest murders since 1965, but most of the gains in safety are taking place in areas that are also thriving economically.

Emanuel is so solicitous of Chicagos global citizens because hes one of them. The product of a wealthy North Shore suburb, he moved to Chicago after college, the same journey taken by so many of the citys young professionals. He made his bones not in ward politics, but in Washington, D.C. As the first elected mayor in over a century who didnt grow up in Chicago, Emanuels political career would have been impossible in an era when Chicagoans sized each other up by asking, Which parish are you from?

One of the mayors closest friends is Bruce Rauner, a billionaire investor running for governor of Illinois on a platform of breaking the power of public employee unions. Rauner helped swing a deal that made Emanuel wealthy in the early 2000s, and later introduced Emanuel to fly-fishing at his Montana ranch. Officially, Emanuel is supporting the incumbent Democratic governor, Pat Quinn.

But the Sun-Timess Michael Sneed wrote that hes backing Rauner in his heart, and Chicago magazines Carol Felsenthal predicted, I bet Rahm pulls the lever for his buddy, Republican Bruce Rauner, former CEO of the private equity firm GTCR. Emanuel will not be the first Chicago mayor who remains all-powerful at home as his influence outside the city wanes. Richard J. Daley helped put John F. Kennedy into the White House in 1960. In the decade that followed, Daley reacted to his partys leftward drift by becoming ever more reactionary, culminating in his beat-down of protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Four years later, he was such an embarrassing atavism that George McGovern kicked him out of the convention, replacing his Illinois delegation with a slate headed by Jesse Jackson. Yet Daley remained mayor until his death in 1976.

Chicagoans love a strongman. Ever since the Council Wars of the 1980s, which pitted Mayor Harold Washington against a bloc of white alderman, the city has feared the disorder that accompanies democracy. So Emanuel can stay in office as long as he wants. And his connections to Hollywood and Wall Street mean hell be a sought-after fundraiser. But as a figure from the Democrats post-Reagan, pre-Recession era, hes unlikely to have much influence on the partys national direction, or even on municipal governance. Emanuel has turned out to be Bloombergs successor, but only as the leading practitioner of the theory that the way to improve a city is by feeding the rich, and ignoring everyone else.


June 26, 2014 at 10:31 AM

By: sudan mahmoud

Grass root politics

It's apparent that it starts with the Ward Bosses....and educating the masses of people...the unions....schools...churches....mosques..people of leadership...businessmen.....dollars and pour in this fight for better...government...the call to the people it has to begin now.....that's....grassroot...put the fight in the blocks....

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