Children celebrate in a Juneteenth parade in Flint, Mich., on June 19, 2018. | Jake May/The Flint Journal

Bruce Rauner’s off base when he claims on Juneteenth to be a friend to blacks

As we marked Juneteenth on Tuesday, Governor Rauner boldly stated he has “done more for black business, for black economic opportunity and black education opportunity than anybody.”

According to whom?

Because I will tell you, it certainly wasn’t according to black workers, dealing with the highest black unemployment rate of any state in the country under his failed leadership.


Bruce Rauner wasn’t talking to black small business owners who are still reeling from his devastation to Small Business Development Centers and still shut out from too many state contracts.

And he wasn’t talking to black families, who carried the largest share of the burden of his 736-day state budget crisis, and are still trying to recover from that devastation.

This is a governor who vetoed a $15 minimum wage and even suggested getting rid of it entirely. This is a governor who called Chicago Public Schools “prisons.” This is a governor who couldn’t even initially muster up the courage to call a Grand Wizard of the KKK a racist.

This is no champion.

This is not to say our problems started with Bruce Rauner. Systemic disinvestment in our communities has too often left our families behind. The education our children receive is all too often determined by the color of their skin and the zip code they live in. Our criminal justice system disproportionately targets people of color.

These are historic and entrenched realities. But Bruce Rauner has made our reality in Illinois worse. And for him to then take Juneteenth — a day to celebrate freedom and the fight for justice — and pretend to be a champion for the black community is appalling and insulting.

We want more than proclamations about us; we want leaders who will listen to us and address these problems with us.

That is why I agreed to be J.B. Pritzker’s partner in this campaign. I saw someone who has spent his life listening to individuals who have been marginalized. I saw someone with the courage, compassion, and conviction to confront the challenges our governor never will.

Together, we’re putting forward real plans to reverse the divestment in our communities. J.B. and I will increase funding for our schools, especially the ones our governor once called “prisons.” We’ll support our small businesses by making sure entrepreneurs of color have equal opportunity to compete. And we will be steadfast advocates for a criminal justice system that recognizes the potential of every person in all of our communities.

The Rauner playbook pits one community against another. It qualifies lip service as leadership. It accepts the status quo as good enough.

So while I’m outraged that Bruce Rauner thinks he’s doing enough for the black community, I’m sadly not surprised. Three years of inaction suggests he is unable or unwilling to recognize reality.

Fortunately for us, we have a real choice in November. One that rejects the politics of fear and false choices. I am proud of the vision and values J.B. and I are running on because real results are long overdue.

Juliana Stratton is the Democratic candidate in the November election for lieutenant governor of Illinois.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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