A race that’s not about race

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Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot

By Erick Johnson

Two Black women. A historic mayoral race. A powerful Black electorate.

The historic race that will produce Chicago’s first Black female mayor comes to a climax Tuesday, April 2, when voters across the city head to the polls to decide whether Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle will preside over the 5th floor at City Hall.

But for all its historic implications and strong appeals to win over Chicago’s Black voters, this mayoral race is an unprecedented one. It has forced Blacks to go beyond skin color to face the truth about two candidates, who are not popular in the Black community.

Both candidates have preached the gospel of social and political change at a time when hundreds of Blacks are leaving the city amid unaddressed gun violence and unsolved murders.

They look like us, but are they really for us? Many Black voters are too loyal to their race to go there, but it’s a question that lays bare the heart of this campaign.

Simply put, this race is not about race.

It’s about which candidate we can trust after we’ve been deceived, betrayed, ignored, exploited, maligned and used to perpetuate a broken political system that serves the city’s privileged and affluent.

For Black voters, this is the status quo that Preckwinkle is perceived to be a part of, with her 28 years of political experience as an alderman and as Cook County Board President. But with her record of taxing residents and ignoring the Black community, she’s become a figure who is difficult to support and trust.

For fed up Black voters, Lightfoot seems to be the best choice. But to a greater degree, she’s been distant to the Black community and there is much doubt whether she can truly be an agent of change as she gets heavy support from white, progressive liberal voters on the North Side.

Both candidates have similar positions when it comes to the issues in Chicago. But who can you trust to deliver the goods to Black folks?

At the polls voters may ask themselves, which is the lesser of the two evils in this race?

That’s still a difficult question that’s making it tough for many Black voters, who remain divided over two Black women whose race is just not enough to win the votes of people of color.

Has anyone wondered why a record number of endorsements have been racked up by both candidates since this runoff race began?

Political endorsements are a time-honored tool that plays on the trust of voters, but look how many each candidate has gained and emphasized in this election season.

The most coveted of these endorsements was that of Willie Wilson, who  captured 13 predominately Black wards to Preckwinkle’s five, and Lightfoot’s zero, in the February 26 general election.

Blacks trust Wilson not just because he’s a brother, but because he’s a real brother, who has built a bond with the Black community with his activism and philanthropy.

Lightfoot grabbed his endorsement and she perhaps needed it the most. Still the question remains. She’s Black, but can she be trusted?

Preckwinkle has experience, but is this enough to trust her?

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