Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Race-Based Voting Encouraged in Cook County

The Chicago Defender's headline today (July 8) is the first red flag: "Four Black candidates--so far--for county board president." The Defender, which bills itself as "the nation’s most influential Black weekly newspaper," notes that some African-Americans are worried that a "non-Black" candidate might win. Writer Wendell Hutson says so:

"Many are concerned that having all four of them in the race will split the Black vote, paving the way for a non-Black candidate to take the office," writes Hutson. He quotes Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown, who is running against Stroger, as saying that she is "concerned about the Black vote being split." She's worried that such a split might pave the way for a "non-Black" to become the next President of the Cook County Board in the February 2, 2010 election.

Imagine, if you will, a White or Hispanic candidate saying such a thing. What if a non-Black candidate openly expressed dismay that a "non-White" or "non-Hispanic" person might win? Of course, there would be cries of racism and outrage. Let's see who calls out Dorothy Brown for her racist remark.

It's a (true) cliche by now that 80-90% of Black voters tend to cast ballots based solely on the race of the candidates, when a Black candidate is one of their choices. That's what got Todd Stroger elected in 2006, despite the fact that most voters knew that he was not the best qualified candidate. I recall a number of well-educated Black acquaintances telling me that they would vote for Stroger because they had to "support the brother." Stroger was running against a non-Black candidate then, you see, and these smart Black voters just had to go with the non-White guy.

To a person, those acquaintances expressed regret months later for having done so. None of them would admit that their choice was based entirely on racist motivation, and their decision gave Cook County a corrupt, waste-ridden Stroger Administration. Corruption and waste are nothing new to Cook County government, of course, but Stroger has taken it to a new low with the hiring of many inept relatives, friends and cronies. Had to go with the brother. Non-Black guy Tony Peraica, a respected reformer who is a commissioner on the Cook County Board, lost to Stroger primarily because of race.

That racist voting tendency, long nurtured by the Democrat Party and reinforced by ignorant parents, is alive and well in 2009. Although the Black candidates running against Stroger are each better qualified, in my opinion, we still here them talking about splitting the Black vote. So far, no "non-Black" person has declared their candidacy for Cook County Board President, only Black Democrats. If a highly qualified non-Black person throws his or her hat into the ring, will Black voters in Cook County again reject that non-Black because of race? You can bet they will.

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