MITCHELL: Chris Kennedy takes low road by spreading conspiracy theory

SHARE MITCHELL: Chris Kennedy takes low road by spreading conspiracy theory
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Gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy (right) and his running mate, Ra Joy. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chris Kennedy is right.

Working-class and poor blacks have been pushed out of the city.

Chicago’s black population has dropped by more than 250,000 people since 2000, according to the latest U.S. Census.

OPINION

I packed up and moved to a suburb in the early 1980s for the same reasons a lot of black people are packing up and leaving today.

I wanted to raise my children in a safer environment and send them to better schools.

But last week, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate placed the blame for the black exodus on Rahm’s shoulders.

“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,” Kennedy said at a press conference where he criticized the mayor’s efforts to reduce gun violence.

His accusations might have shocked many Chicagoans, but not black folks.

Many of us were saying that very same thing long before Emanuel got into office.

We said it when CHA tore down miles of public housing on lakefront land and scattered poor black folks like dust in the wind.

We said it because it seemed that gang-bangers were being allowed to boldly peddle drugs on our street corners and in front of our houses.

We said it when black children were being promoted from Chicago Public Schools without being able to read and write.

And we said it when small business owners disappeared, leaving behind empty strip malls and commercial districts.

Now in a misguided effort to attract black voters, Kennedy, whose surname evokes a great deal of respect among an older generation, has resurrected this old conspiracy theory.

“We’re cutting off money for schools, cutting off money 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 said at the press conference.

Obviously the mayor should be held accountable when things go awry and his administration is caught flat-footed.

And certainly there’s a case to be made that closing community mental health facilities was a bad idea.

But it is disappointing that Kennedy is trying to exploit Emanuel’s lack of popularity among some black voters by embracing age-old conspiracy theories, instead of coming up with fresh ideas that would benefit the black community.

In a written statement, the mayor’s office brushed off Kennedy’s attack as a political jab.

“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,” said a mayoral spokesman.

But Kennedy’s attack is more than sad.

Besides disparaging the mayor’s efforts to address the disparities that still exist, Kennedy’s allegations suggest the stellar line-up of African-American leaders in Emanuel’s administration — not to mention black aldermen — are useless.

It’s preposterous to think people like Andrea Zopp (CEO of World Business Chicago and former deputy mayor and head of the Chicago Urban League), Eddie Johnson (Chicago Police superintendent), Janice Jackson (interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools) and Frank Clark (Chicago Board of Education president and retired chairman and CEO of ComEd) would be part of the sinister plan Kennedy described.

Clearly, gun violence in predominantly black neighborhoods has driven thousands of black families to flee the city.

Higher black unemployment and underemployment have also forced families to relocate to nearby places like Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

And the segregation that still exists in many of the city’s neighborhoods is a turnoff for younger black families that want to raise their children in a diverse community.

Kennedy didn’t have to stoop to spreading conspiracy theories to make his point that Chicago is still divided by race and class. He could have stuck with the facts.

The reasons for black flight go far beyond one mayor and one administration.

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