Thursday, December 15, 2011

Does Rahm have a Latino death wish?

EMANUEL: Brawl's here, no matter what he does
When it comes to Rahm Emanuel, a part of me wonders if his political savvy withers away whenever the segment of the electorate involved is someone of Latino ethnic origins.

This is the guy who all-too-often gets the blame for President Barack Obama’s apathetic approach to governing in the interests of Latinos during his first term as president.

NOW, IT IS being reported that Emanuel (now mayor of Chicago) is siding against Latinos when it comes to the reapportionment of the City Council’s 50 ward boundaries.

Perhaps Emanuel is merely evidence that it isn’t just the GOP that is filled with political people who are capable of being tone-deaf when it comes to the 21st Century’s population composition.

Of course, my guess is that Emanuel is thinking in the same terms on Chicago reapportionment as he seemed to do on immigration reform when he was chief of staff to Obama.

He was more interested in avoiding a political brawl than he was in trying to accomplish what might be proper or right.

FOR THE CHICAGO ward boundaries are a political brawl-in-waiting, regardless of what one tries to do. Which in my mind ought to be the motivation for trying to do the “right” thing! Because you’re going to get criticized, regardless of what happens.

It becomes a lot easier to defend oneself from outrageous accusations if one is convinced they did the proper thing.
Soon to be obsolete

In Chicago, the population is split up among 50 wards – even though the city is about 200,000 people fewer now than it was a decade ago.

And the reality of the population shift is that the bulk of the loss is because of African-American people moving either to Chicago’s south suburbs (where there are now municipalities that are overwhelmingly African-American in composition) or to the Deep South (Atlanta seems to be a popular destination).

BUT DESPITE THE fact that Chicago proper has about 25,000 more Latinos now (just as Chicago is the city with more Polish people than Warsaw, it is now also the city with more Mexican people than Vera Cruz (pop. 552,156).

Which means that Latino political people are pushing for an increase in the number of wards likely to elect a Latino official to the City Council. But black aldermen are pushing for City Council boundaries that maintain the number of wards they were previously allocated.

Attempts to bolster the number of Latino wards caused shouting matches in the council in recent days, with some reports indicating that the activity got so heated that police had to be used to break up the potential brawls.

Since then, Emanuel has been so eager to avoid long, drawn-out racial and legal fights over this issue that his orders have gone out – give the black aldermen what they want, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

I CAN APPRECIATE the fact that the last thing we need is a brawl between Latinos and African-American politicos – with white officials sitting on the sidelines silently snickering while their status quo remains intact.

But there is also going to have to be a sense of aggressiveness from Latino officials themselves if our political influence is to remain commensurate with our share of the overall population.

Too many people have come to think of our society as a “black” and “white” one, and the idea of a third segment that needs to be treated equally is one that is going to have to be force-fed to political people like Emanuel – who’d rather not be bothered with more work than necessary.

Besides, it’s only a matter of time before Asians (who comprise about 6 percent of Chicago) become a large-enough segment of our society that they’re going to be rightfully entitled to a piece of the political pie as well.

IT MAY WELL turn out that alderman Dick Mell is correct when late Wednesday he said of the redistricting process, "everybody has to give," and added later, "some get hurt worse than others."

Latino activists may have to provoke this issue into a fight to ensure they don't become the ones who get hurt "worse" than others. Because doing nothing ultimately winds up benefitting only those people who say they’d rather not have such divisiveness in our society.

The ones who’d rather go back to the old days when they had the whole pie, and everybody else had to sit on the sidelines with nothing.


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