Mayor Rahm's Chicago—in black and white | Bleader

Mayor Rahm's Chicago—in black and white

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If your only knowledge of Chicago was based on the contrasting attitudes of white and black voters toward Mayor Emanuel's educational policies, you'd think that this was a highly segregated, deeply divided city with two distinct ways of viewing the same thing.

Oh, wait—that's what we are!

How else to explain the fact that Sunday's Tribune poll shows that 51 percent of white people approve of the mayor's school closing policies?

Whereas 77 percent of black Chicagoans disapprove of them.

For that matter, 69 percent of Hispanics disapprove of them as well.

l suppose these results shouldn't be that much of a shock. Mayor Emanuel's not closing schools in white neighborhoods. So what do they care?

To put it bluntly.

In fact, it's all too easy for people of any race to be coolly objective, analytical, and open-minded about cuts and closings that hit hardest on the other side of town.

Imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine if a black mayor were closing schools in white neighborhoods.

Then I'd be getting phone calls from anguished white people pleading with me to write about the gutting of their communities.

And black people would be coming up to me at parties to say—a little smugly—"Well, Ben, you have to admit, some of these schools are underutilized."

Of course, as we all know, Mayor Emanuel's been careful not to close much of anything in white north-side neighborhoods since his first budget back in 2011.

If you recall, in that budget, he originally planned to cut hours in neighborhood library branches all over town. It set off a minirevolt that included white people—particularly of the north-side persuasion. And guess what? He backed off on the cuts.

Funny how it works.

Here's another interesting result from the Tribune poll.

Overall, the mayor's not doing so bad with black voters, considering everything. Forty percent said they generally approve of the job he's doing. Forty-eight percent say they disapprove.

But if you get specific with your question, or give the voters a choice—look out!

For instance, when asked, "With whom do you side in debates over improving public schools?," 55 percent of black voters said the Chicago Teachers Union. And 5 percent said Mayor Emanuel.

That's 5 percent—as in one, two, three, four, five—people! Hey, Toni Preckwinkle—I hope you're paying attention!

Actually, Mayor Emanuel's not doing so well with white voters on this particular question. Thirty-three percent of white voters say they favor Mayor Emanuel and 27 percent say they favor the teachers' union.

Wow—that's pretty close. Maybe CTU president Karen Lewis should run against Mayor Emanuel after all.

If nothing else, it would bring the city together. All Chicagoans—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc—would probably agree that Rahm vs. Karen would be one helluva race.

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