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On Tuesday, Chicago voters selected Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson to advance to a runoff for the coveted mayoral seat, ousting Lori Lightfoot. With nine candidates petitioning for the position, the primaries were messy, disappointing and might as well have been a page out of the Real Housewives franchise.
But what was even more disappointing to me is this facade that we now support Black women. Because the way Lightfoot was thrown out of office after one term, that can’t be true. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is a classic case of political misogyny.
Lori Lightfoot was nowhere near perfect. Admittedly, I launched an anti-Lori campaign when she first ran in 2019 and did not vote for her. However, when she won, I made the decision to support her as our mayor and hold her accountable, both of which I’ve done a number of times throughout these four years.
But the reality is, as a Black, gay woman, Lori had to step into city hall “perfect” on day one and keep that same energy throughout her entire term in order to come out unscathed. As we all know, she did not do that–she could not do that. No one can.
The short story of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
She didn’t play well with others in the sandbox. She clashed with aldermen and some of the most powerful unions in the city and country. She had her share of political and personal controversy, like many other elected officials. And she didn’t mince words.
But she also made some headway in diversifying city government and services departments, improved access to public education and opened up a $200 million dollar revenue stream in the building of a new casino. The greatest part of her legacy is Invest South/West, a community development initiative to reverse decades of disinvestment on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Regardless of these achievements, she was still blamed for most of the city’s problems–specifically, the rise in crime.
A once-in-a-generation challenge
First, the pandemic exposed and exacerbated so many deep-rooted issues that’s now the chaos we see today. People’s unwillingness to acknowledge that bothers me, and the expectation that Mayor Lightfoot had to “fix” decades of oppression in four years was totally unreasonable.
I get it, crime is a huge problem but if we’re keeping it real, it wasn’t the priority when it was contained to Black and Brown neighborhoods on the south and west sides. Also, this increase in crime could’ve been prevented with citywide advocacy against controversial actions during the Richard J. Daley era.
For over 50 years, failed policies, machine politics to protect power and privilege and the continued neglect of underserved communities have gone unchecked. But now that crime is on the doorstep of the homes and businesses of White northsiders, it’s public enemy number one, an enemy that just so happened to show up during Lori’s term. It ultimately was part of her demise.
Race and sexual orientation played a factor
Let’s also admit that Lori Lightfoot’s job was harder because she’s a Black, gay woman. A White or Black man would’ve received much more grace and another chance at fighting for their seat.
For instance, in a so-called progressive city, runoff front-runner, Paul Vallas, claims to be a Democrat but has received several Republican-connected endorsements. He’s destroyed multiple school districts across the country, including ours. And when he ran for mayor in 2019, he landed in 9th place out of the 14 candidates. Yet, he’s risen to the top because of his “law and order” platform and did particularly well in communities that supported former President, Donald Trump.
Let’s not forget how Rahm Emanuel was elected to a second term after closing over 50 schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods, half of the city’s mental health clinics and trying to cover up the LaQuan McDonald shooting.
Lori received none of this grace.
The myth of the “Super Black Woman”
Former Illinois State Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Litesa Wallace, shared her frustrations with being a Black woman in the political arena in a Facebook conversation. “I’ve personally experienced most of the political misogynoir discussed as well as the unrealistic expectation to be ‘super’ all the time. So super that you in fact manage to overcome hundreds of years of oppression just because you’re the ‘first’ in a position. And indeed if you fail, your previous objectification as ‘super’ justifies your severe judgment/punishment.”
Bottom line, we keep talking about “support Black women” but as soon as a Black woman messes up, seemingly can’t get the job done (regardless of how colossal it is) or doesn’t play ball with the establishment, we’re quick to throw them away or ice them out.
This piece isn’t a pass for Lori Lightfoot. Nor am I saying us Chicagoans don’t have the right to be frustrated or choose new leadership. Instead, it’s a calling out of hypocrisy. The people didn’t make this decision–the usual politricks and misogyny did.
If we truly want Black women to lead and win, we have to take the ground stake out of their cape and have grace when their first attempt at flying isn’t perfect.