Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has been a controversial figure in the black community. High-profile Chicagoans such as Chance The Rapper have publicly called him out, questioning his commitment to quality education for all Chicagoans. Others have criticized him on matters of race and policing, in particular questioning his role in the Laquan McDonald cover up, as the Chicago Tribune reports.
Now, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy is hopping board the call-out train, and has accused the city’s mayor of attempting to push black people out of the city in order to make it a whiter and wealthier place, according to a new report from the Chicago Tribune.
As we reported not long ago, Chicago is losing its black population at record speed. One study found that the city lost 12,000 black residents between 2015 and 2016. Kennedy thinks he knows why so many black Chicagoans are leaving the city.
“I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration, and I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes. That’s what I think,” Kennedy said during a news conference focused on gun violence.
“My belief is they’re being pushed out. This is involuntary. That we’re cutting off funding for schools, cutting off funding for police, allowing people to be forced to live in food deserts, closing hospitals, closing access to mental health facilities. What choice do people have but to move, to leave?” Kennedy continued. “And I think that’s part of a strategic gentrification plan being implemented by the city of Chicago to push people of color out of the city. The city is becoming smaller and as it becomes smaller, it’s become whiter.”
Kennedy cited the Chicago Public School closings as an example of the Emanuel’s gentrification plan.
“I don’t know what you can say when the strategic plan for Chicago Public Schools suggest that the entire community of Englewood can go an entire year without access to a high school,” said Kennedy. Englewood is a primarily black community on the city’s South Side.
“What are you saying to the people there? No one’s going to move there who’s got a high school kid. And anybody with a high school kid has to think about what they’re going to do. It’s just a device to empty out the community,” he added.
A spokesperson for the mayor argued that Kennedy, who is the son of former U.S. attorney general and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, is cherry-picking examples and that his statements “ignored work being done in neighborhoods across the city.”
The spokesperson did not specify exactly what this “work” entails, but did try to link Kennedy to the state’s current Republican governor and President Trump. “It’s sad to see Chris Kennedy joining President Trump and Governor Rauner in using cynical, politically-motivated attacks about Chicago’s communities for his own personal gain,” the spokesperson said.
In his remarks, Kennedy argued that Emanuel ought not to take credit for gains that are only experienced by certain parts of the city.
“Not to the people of North Lawndale [Emanuel] can’t [claim credit.] Not to the people in lots of neighborhoods in this city where crime continues to increase, not decrease; where funds have been removed; where schools are being closed; where community police officers don’t exist; where training of cops is diminished; where an entire generation of police officers are retiring early, leaving no one to mentor the younger officers; where crime is the result of that cataclysmic combination of forces,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy is currently campaigning for the governor spot; a March 20 Democratic primary, in which he will face off against his chief rival, billionaire heir to the Hyatt fortune J.B. Pritzker, will decide whether he gets to move on to the main race.
Emanuel’s office has said it will release a more detailed statement on these allegations later this week.