Richard J. Daley a ‘horribly racist mayor,’ great-grandson says in letter

In an open letter to his cousins, Bobby Vanecko also condemns his great-uncle Richard M. Daley and parents’ cousin Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) for racist policymaking.

SHARE Richard J. Daley a ‘horribly racist mayor,’ great-grandson says in letter
Richard J. Daley. | Sun-Times files

Richard J. Daley was called a “horribly racist mayor” in a letter written by his great-grandson. | Sun-Times files

A great-grandson of Mayor Richard J. Daley has called out several members of his extended family, accusing them of being “committed to white supremacy” in an open letter published last week.

In “A Letter to My Cousins,” published Wednesday in South Side Weekly, Bobby Vanecko calls his great-grandfather a “horribly racist mayor” and points to great-uncle Richard M. Daley’s involvement “in covering up evidence of Chicago police torture.”

Vanecko, a law student at Loyola University Chicago who was raised in Sauganash, has signaled his support for defunding police departments and abolishing prisons in a series of social media posts.

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He serves as an intern for First Defense Legal Aid, a group that “mobilizes lawyers & overpoliced community members to fill gaps in public defense & create, protect and engage replicable alternatives to the criminal system starting with its entry points,” according to its mission statement.

He declined to comment through a spokeswoman for the group.

Vanecko’s op-ed also targets Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), one of his father’s cousins. Vanecko criticized the alderman for wanting “to give even more power and resources to CPD,” which Vanecko attributes to Thompson’s “idolization” of Richard J. Daley.

Thompson told the Sun-Times it’s “unfortunate” Vanecko used a public platform to raise issues about the family.

“That young man is entitled to his own interpretations of facts and history,” Thompson said. “As far as his comments about me, my reputation among everyone I’ve ever known and worked with speaks for itself. That’s all I have to say.

“The way I was raised and the way I conduct myself, that speaks for itself,” Thompson added.

Vanecko says his political family member’s support for racist policies can be traced back to Richard J. Daley, who ruled over the city from 1955 until his death in 1976 and resisted efforts toward desegregation.

“The first Mayor Daley was enduringly successful in shaping his city, and his legacy influences Chicago’s politics today,” Vanecko wrote. “Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the country, while public schools, health facilities, and housing have been closed and divested from; at the same time police spending per capita has tripled since 1964.”

The elder Mayor Daley’s standard of “law and order” denied people fighting against this racism, Vanecko wrote, nodding to both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden for campaigning on similar notions in the 2020 presidential election.

Vanecko said this trend continued with Richard M. Daley, Vanecko’s great-uncle and former Cook County state’s attorney and Chicago’s mayor from 1989 to 2011. His great-uncle “was involved in covering up evidence of Chicago police torture,” Vanecko said. Richard M. Daley has denied knowing anything about police torture during his tenure.

“Many people in our family are still committed to white supremacy today, even if they are not racist interpersonally,” Vanecko wrote.

“They support racist politics and policies like mass criminalization, privatization, and austerity, otherwise known as neoliberal capitalism.”

Cook County Commissioner John Daley, Richard M. Daley’s brother, also pushed back on Vanecko’s incendiary allegations.

“Rich Daley came into a city that was so divided racially, and he united it,” John Daley said of his brother. “We had big problems, and he reached right out after he was elected in the minority community. And he knew he had to do that.”

John Daley, who also serves as the 11th Ward committeeman, said the letter was “very offensive” and claimed he had “no idea” why his great-nephew chose to air his grievances publicly. He flatly denied the claims his family is racist.

“My dad, me, Rich, we don’t carry those views. And we never carried those views in our family,” he said.

Vanecko said he published the letter with aims to “dismantle the white supremacist policies and institutions enabled by some of our family members,” he said.

He condemned his family’s reactions to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

“In the midst of this historic uprising — when more white people than ever before are realizing their complicity in upholding white supremacy and taking action to demand change — many members of our family are still very pro-police,” Vanecko said. “They are prone to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement with the ‘all lives’ or the even worse and more directly white supremacist, ‘blue’ lives matter refrain.”

Read the full letter in South Side Weekly

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