What the Chicago Mayor’s Race Says About Black America

With 20 mayoral wannabes, including a hypnotherapist and seven black candidates, there's been lots of drama in Chicago lately. But we should all be concerned about the inability of black Chicago to rally behind one office seeker.

From left: Carol Moseley Braun; Danny Davis; Rahm Emanuel
From left: Carol Moseley Braun; Danny Davis; Rahm Emanuel

However, the more important lesson is that black America’s one voice must be found within society — even if that “one voice” is made up of thousands of individual voices — and must be claimed immediately, even as we must also look to stop the bickering that seems to develop regularly within the community from well-intended debate.

The emotional investment for African Americans nationally in the Chicago mayoral race is not about whether we will be able to place Chicago among the ranks of other major cities — like Philadelphia; Newark, N.J.; and Charlotte, N.C. — with African-American leadership at the very top. We risk a lot as a people when political and civic potential is not realized because our differences keep us more divided than united.

If black political power remains split during this critical time in the Windy City — a town where black children are dying at alarming rates — the episode should serve as a model prompting us back to the bargaining and conversation tables throughout America so that we can resolve our differences, consolidate our priority lists and immediately concur on next steps. As with the mayor’s race here in Chicago, the paralysis of analysis and inertia has resulted in a quagmire that makes good sound bites but keeps us stuck — in the past, in a confused state of division and in a rut.

We in black America have more in common than we have differences. Our priorities lists (e.g., public safety, employment, education, family unity, health care) are probably similar. As with the movement to find black consensus in Chicago’s mayoral race, there is a need to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to identifying the best political and civic leaders and ideas to remedy today’s woes. Unlike the Chicago race, if we continue to follow the Windy City’s example and go without a black consensus on issues affecting us nationally, we will not have a chance to rectify the resulting societal carnage every four years.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of the morning radio show Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister at 5 a.m. on WVON, The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. He is the author of an upcoming edition of the book The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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