Despite Election Gains, Blacks Fleeing Chicago in Droves

If Chicago is a black political mecca, why are African-Americans leaving the city in droves?

You’ve probably seen the list by now. Some folks are calling it “black women magic.”

Since Lori Lightfoot’s historic victory last week, the list has been passed around proudly as a symbol of the achievements of African-American women in the Chicago area.

While hardly anyone was paying attention, black women rose up and took charge of the most high-profile positions in our city and county government. If you throw in the African-American men also in top spots, the changing political tide is even more astounding.

I have a question, though. If our city really has become the black political mecca it appears to be, why are African-Americans leaving Chicago in droves?

Obviously, something is wrong in paradise.

Everyone knows that Lightfoot will become Chicago’s first African-American female mayor next month. But Toni Preckwinkle’s loss in the heated mayoral race allows her to retain another top position, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. She also happens to be chair of the Cook County Democratic Party.

We’ll also get Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who won last week’s runoff for city treasurer. She joins Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Avis LaVelle, president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, and Kari Steele, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for Greater Chicago.

And don’t forget, we’ve got Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton down in Springfield.

Now, add the black men. Chicago has an African-American police superintendent and a black fire chief. Black men also head the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Housing Authority, the Chicago Board of Education and the board of Chicago City Colleges.

Add to that an African-American attorney general for Illinois and the secretary of state.

Chicagoans are beyond being shocked when an African-American lands in a high position. Most of us have come to accept it as the norm. We elected Carol Moseley Braun as the nation’s first African-American female U.S. senator more than 25 years ago. The first African-American president gained his political footing in Chicago as well.

Does that really make a difference, though, to the average Joe in West Garfield Park, among the city’s communities with the highest poverty rates, highest homicide rates and lowest life expectancy rates?

It’s nice to be able to pat ourselves on the back for being a progressive city when it comes to electing diverse leaders, but it’s mostly a facade.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton tears up as she addresses the audience after being sworn into office at the Bank of Springfield on Jan. 14, 2019. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune)

That’s part of the reason Chicago may have had a record-low 32 percent voter turnout in last week’s historic election, according to unofficial results. Many of the low numbers were in predominantly African-American precincts.

Most people don’t have a lot of confidence in politicians, regardless of their skin color. For African-Americans on the South and West sides, areas that historically have seen more broken promises from City Hall than any other group, the apathy is unfortunate, but understandable.

Not only are black people not voting. They’re packing up and leaving by the thousands...