Photo Credit: Chicago Headline Club
By: Damian Lopez
Will Rahm Emanuel divide and conquer?
Will Chuy Garcia bring the band back together?
A crucial factor in the mayoral runoff is the racial divide in the city of Chicago, which was clear Monday night at the Chicago Headline Club’s panel on how the media cover race.
The mayoral runoff between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus Chuy Garcia was one of many topics the panelists discussed during a passionate, sometimes heated forum.
Chicago’s population is roughly made up of a third being white, another third being black, and the last third being Hispanic. Rahm Emanuel is the favorite by the lakefront, which is predominantly white. Last year he landed 49 percent of white votes. However, the first-term mayor does not have enough support from African-American/Hispanic, inner-city neighborhoods to secure a win in this election. According to Chicago Sun Times “… the backlash against Emanuel’s decision to close a record 50 public schools apparently made holding half the African-American vote a tall order…” This is crucial considering he had 58 percent of the black votes in the 2011 election.
Garcia is trying to “put the band back together,” ABC7 political reporter Charles Thomas said referring to the coalition Harold Washington put together to win the 1983 mayoral race.
If Garcia is able to successfully build a coalition between Hispanics and African Americans, then he may be able to win the election considering they make up more than half of Chicago’s population.
The journalists who were speaking at Yesterday’s panel at Columbia College acknowledged the fact that forming a bond between Hispanics and African Americans will be a deciding element of the campaign.
Emanuel has already started making moves to stop Garcia, the panelists said.
Delmarie Cobb, a longtime media and political consultant, said Emanuel has turned black ministers against Garcia, a former alderman and state lawmaker now serving as on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. This could have a negative effect on the sometimes strained relationship between Hispanics and African Americans, the panelists said.
However, Hermene Hartman, CEO of Hartman Publishing Group, stated how “gimmicks don’t work.” She said this in response to comments U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk made about the mayoral runoff, suggesting that if someone besides Emanuel wins, Chicago could turn into Detroit.
“When people make these little subtle, subdued, subliminal racist marks, we understand what they’re saying,” Hartman said referring to black voters. “It backfires on them all the time.”
Hartman also said “The hug didn’t work.” referring to Obama and Pullman.
With this said, the approach Emanuel is taking may be transparent to African Americans, as well as Latinos.
Referring back to the statement of Chicago turning into Detroit, Charles Thomas, Delmarie Cobb, and Chicago Sun Times reporter Mark Brown had a few words to say…
Thomas: “That’s a scare tactic.”
Brown: “That was also the scare tactic used for the Harold Washington election” – that Chicago would become another Detroit.
Cobb: “We are a step away from being Detroit, but it won’t be because of Jesus Garcia going into office.” It will be 30 years of neglect of the neighborhoods.
There was also a heated, bias discussion between panelist Hermene Hartman, Delmarie Cobb, and Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader. The debate was over ethnic diversity in newsrooms and white media being able to report about blacks and hispanics.
Hartman: “If the newsrooms were balanced, if they were equal, this wouldn’t be a problem.” “What the white mainstream media tends to do is stereotype” Talking to one, two, people of color doesn’t give you the view. “It is a view.” White reporters have to talk to more than three or four of the same people.
Hartman: “White folks aren’t qualified to report about black and Hispanics.”
Mick: So are you saying me as a political reporter here for 15 years can only write about writes or fake blacks and Hispanics?
Later, Thomas seemed to agree with Hartman, saying: “The danger is that we talk only to the civil rights activists or the elected officials.”
Cobb: Mick, you’re an exception. There’s a handful, and you’re one of them. In many cases the white media isn’t doing their job. But there are also black people who are selling us out on a daily basis. We know who they are. “They’re not speaking for the black community, they’re speaking for themselves.”
With this being said at the end of the pane, the 80 or so people in the panel were left intrigued.
The journalist that conducted the panel consisted of:
Mark Brown: Chicago Sun-Times
Delmarie Cobb: Media and political consultant
Hermene Hartman: CEO of Hartman Publishing Group
Esther Cepeda: Washington Post columnist
Charles Thomas: ABC7 reporter
Mick Dumke: The Chicago Reader
The panel was recorded by CAN-TV and can be seen here.