Before African Americans vote for Pritzker — or anybody else — let’s get a list

SHARE Before African Americans vote for Pritzker — or anybody else — let’s get a list

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker | Sun-Times file photo

I like lists. They keep me organized, on track and accountable. African-American voters need a list.

Illinois gubernatorial candidate and billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker has been on an apology tour since the emergence of FBI wiretaps of his 2008 phone conversation with the felonious former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.


Many African-American elected officials, religious leaders and activists were offended by Pritzker’s chat about the people Blagojevich could appoint to the U.S. Senate seat of then-President-elect Barack Obama.

Former state Senate President Emil Jones was “crass,” Pritzker said. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was “the “least offensive” pick, and one who could help Blagojevich with “the African-American thing.”

Some critics contend that Pritzker’s remarks insulted not only prominent African-Americans, but the entire African-American community. Pritzker showed his true colors, they say — he’s just a white billionaire politician trying to get over on us.

Pritzker’s supporters, who represent much of the black power establishment, are not happy. But, they argue, you dance with the one who brought you. Pritzker has apologized. Besides that, they say, Democrats will need Pritzker’s billions and accompanying clout to beat Gov. Bruce Rauner in November.

Really? Did anyone ever have any illusions that powerful white politicians put African-American interests above their own? Or that they always tell the truth?

Then last week came a teapot tempest over a provocative cartoon published in the Chicago Reader. The cover illustration is of Pritzker sitting, jolly as can be, atop a black lawn jockey, which is a potent symbol of Southern-style black oppression. The headline: “J.B. Pritzker’s African-American Thing.”

Three of Pritzker’s top black supporters — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, 6thWard Ald. Roderick Sawyer, and Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers — issued a statement labeling the cartoon “racist.”

Sawyer, chair of the Chicago City Council Black Caucus, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I think it’s time to move on to talking about something substantial. We’re getting away from the real issues here.”

The real issues, indeed. How about that list?

Illinois’March 20primary election is five weeks away. Early voting already has begun in some parts of the state.

Black folks are faced with an all-too-familiar quandary: The leading gubernatorial candidates are all white men.

We know that the government jobs, state-funded projects, economic development and social services have been mortally imperiled under Gov. Bruce Rauner. We know that our numbers and Democratic Party loyalty add up to real power at the polls.

But will we once again go hat in hand to politicians who keep us dangling on a string, with promises made and never kept?

Pritzker’s influential black supporters are sticking with him. What will they get in return?

On his apology tour, Pritzker promised to build an administration that includes “African-American leaders at all levels making the decisions that guide us forward and the decisions that affect the economic health of the African-American community.”

He said he will “take real concrete steps to address” the lack of equal access to jobs, adequate housing, health care, and education.

Beyond the rhetoric, what exactly will he deliver? African-Americans need to make a handy, dandy list of specific, hard core commitments, and demand that every candidate make real commitments.

It’s time for a loud, transparent and very public conversation with Pritzker and his leading competitors, real estate developer Chris Kennedy and state Sen. Daniel Biss.

You want our vote. How many jobs, appointments and dollars will you deliver? How about that list?

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