Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close 53 public schools and 61 buildings in largely minority neighborhoods to help close a $1 billion budget shortfall has some opponents calling the Emanuel plan “racist.”
“[Emanuel] says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago. Does that new Chicago mean no black folks?” said co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance Valerie Leonard. “Where are people going to go? They’re not going to stay around in the community if there are no schools!”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who calls Emanuel’s cost-cutting school consolidation plan “racist,” says the mayor has earned a new nickname. “He is the murder mayor,” said Lewis. “Look at the murder rate in this city. He’s murdering schools, he’s murdering good jobs. He’s murdering housing. I don’t know what else to call him. He’s the murder mayor.”
Others, like activist Wendy Matil Pearson, also see race as a driving factor in Emanuel’s education overhaul.
“I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school,” said Pearson.
Parents and grandparents of the estimated 30,000 children who attend schools slated for closing say it’s like losing a loved one:
Irene Robinson, 48, said all five of her children attended Overton in Bronzeville. Now six of her grandchildren go there. As she stood outside, waiting to walk her grandchildren home, she became irate at the news of the school’s closing.
“It’s like a death in the family. It’s that sad,” she said. “Overton is a family school. These teachers are like aunties and uncles to my grandkids. We all take care of each other. We’ll never get that again.”
Opponents of the Emanuel plan say the mayor’s school shutdown strengthens their resolve to defeat him politically.
“We’re here to stand up to the bully, a.k.a. Rahm Emanuel, a.k.a. the one-term mayor,” said assistant director of the grassroots group Raise Your Hand Dwayne Truss.