I was talking with a friend about the Chicago mayoral election. He asked me what I thought about it. I told him that my current dilemma is, after watching the whittling away of several African American candidates, paying attention to the candidates who remain.
I told him that I’ve held my interest to see what would happen with all the Black candidates, to see what decisions they’d make, whether any would leave the competition. Then I told him that I’m really concerned about the potential of the race as it relates to race.
It seems to me that even as a Black man part of my decision is in 1) hearing and researching and learning about several or all of the candidates’ positions and to let that research inform and guide my vote or 2) voting with or for the person who best puts forward the agenda that closely connects with the uplift of Black folk in the city. The two are not necessarily exclusive; they aren’t necessarily connected.
What does it mean if all the Black registered voters support and vote for a Black candidate, while all the Latino registered voters support and vote for a Latino candidate? Are white folks to vote for a white candidate, or can white registered voters choose across the multiethnic ballot? Is the expectation for us to vote within our cultural corners? Does that place us in a voting climate like the 1970s and 80s? Does that mean the political landscape in Chicago continues to be among the most racially segregated in the nation?
I think there’s something to voting for people who you can connect with you beyond policy, especially since policy is not developed on a campaign. Newly elected officials often edit themselves when the names change on doors, checks, and stationery. Policy happens when information, values, concerned citizens, and the other pieces to the real puzzle emerge. That’s probably always after votes are counted and winners declared. So as a voter, I’ve got to think beyond the words people use. But I also need to look beyond ethnic identification when I’ve been taught to support my own. I think it’ll be easy to say how much people should vote their interests over the next few weeks, not their racial or cultural affiliations, but I wonder how many people will do that? I wonder whether it’s possible in a political climate like the current one for people to trust if and when they’ve had only certain kinds of interactions with, say, Black folk or Latino folk.
How are you thinking about these or related questions, particularly for you following Chicago’s mayoral politics?