Maze Jackson says his vote for Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come back to bite him.
Last year, Jackson, vice president of the Intelligence Group and a WVON commentator, actively supported Rahm Emanuel during the mayoral runoff. He posed for pictures and said Emanuel was a good choice for the younger generation.
"Every time I make a statement in regard to the mayor, somebody finds my endorsement picture and posts it on Facebook or sends it around. It’s an opportunity for people to kind of say ‘I told you so’ even though a majority of the black community did vote for him,” Jackson said.
In fact, Emanuel won the majority of black wards in both 2011 and 2015 and it’s fair to say he would not have been elected without them. But now he’s in trouble with that same constituency as he scrambles to address police accountability. While Emanuel fights for his political life, some blacks who originally supported him are grappling with how best to seize the moment.
While not completely distancing himself from the mayor, Jackson’s been critical of Emanuel’s response to the fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting. But he said this could also be a chance to get the mayor to listen to black demands.
“I don’t believe the mayor’s going to resign. But the black community has to be smart enough to say: what is it that we can leverage, what are the opportunities that we can get out of here when we had a tone-deaf mayor who probably didn’t recognize a tale of two cities but is willing to do anything to bring those two cities together,” Jackson said.
Ever since the week of Thanksgiving, when the city released the video of a white police officer killing the black teenager McDonald, Emanuel has been accused of instigating a cover-up. He’s been criticized for not doing enough to acknowledge police shootings in black and brown neighborhoods, and his administration faces national and international scrutiny as it tries to capture public trust.
Hermene Hartman, the publisher of N’Digo
who supported Emanuel twice, says she has no regrets.
“You don’t regret it because truth be told when you support a politician, you are supporting the promise of the politician,” Hartman said.
That promise could perhaps finally be realized, Hartman says, now that Emanuel is at a crossroads. Her message to the mayor is to get out of his comfort zone and move beyond courting black pastors.
“This is a tale of two cities. Chicago has got to come together. We have got to be one city. We cannot be patronized. We cannot be disrespected. We have got to be included. And inclusion is not the Red Line [renovation], and I’m going to give you some temporary jobs, to drive the bus, to do the heavy lifting, da da da. I want to see some economic plans for the West Side, South Side of Chicago that compare to Lincoln Park,” Hartman said.
In a racially divided city, the very voting bloc that supported him is now among his most vociferous critics. During the tight reelection campaign last year, the mayor donned sweaters and promised to be a softer leader and better listener. Some say for the black community that moment has arrived, and can’t be squandered.
Northeastern Illinois University professor Conrad Worrill agrees economic development is the biggest win African Americans can gain from the mayor during this political turmoil.
But Worrill said there’s a lack of black political unity.
“Right now we don’t have a common approach, a common direction and a common agenda to maximize our strength as a voting bloc black people in the city of Chicago. It’s too much ambulance chasing going on. We respond to this, we respond to that without a substance or strategy underneath,” Worrill said.
Worrill says after the 1987 death of the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, black political fractures emerged that still remain.
But that could finally change by bringing young people and elders together. Emanuel’s vulnerability could mean black victory.
“The opportunity is staring us in the face. Whether we take advantage of the opportunity is another question,” Worrill said.
And even though Worrill voted for Emanuel, he says in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies.
Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. Contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter.