Is there a double standard when it comes to “corruption”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot seemed to treat Alderman Carrie Austin, who is African American, differently from how she treated Alderman Edward M. Burke, who is White. Both aldermen were targets of FBI office raids when Lightfoot slammed Burke but was caution on Austin
By Ray Hanania
Did anyone else have a strange feeling that newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot was taking a less aggressive, condemnatory attitude towards the FBI raid of the offices of Alderwoman Carrie Austin than she did when the FBI raided the offices of Alderman Edward M. Burke?
I did. But then, I am one of the “new minority,” mainstream middleclass homeowners whose only identification is that I am viewed as being White, live in a predominantly white community, and really have no one who cares about the issues of discrimination and abuse that I face. (I am actually Arab, as most of my loyal readers know, but believe me, the world cares less about Arabs than they do about “White” people.
Just talking about “White” people puts me in a special category of contempt in the eyes of many extreme liberals who believe that White people do not suffer discrimination. But, I beg to differ. Not all of us “White people” make millions, live on easy street driving Teslas, Ferraris or Lamborghinis, or are concerned about the massive tax hikes on the “rich.”
I’m definitely not rich, privileged or in some class category looking down on everyone else. In fact, when I want to address issues of race and discrimination and civil rights, I have to pick up my binoculars and look upwards these days.
The point is, it seemed that our Mayor, who was celebrated for being a woman, a Gay and an African American, seemed to take a less confrontational approach to Austin, who happens to be African American, too, than the mayor took with Burke when the only issue facing him was that his office had been raided.
Remember, that Burke’s offices were raided in November of last year, during the height of the political battle to determine who would become mayor of Chicago. Lightfoot was one of 12 candidates, and won the largest vote in the February 2019 primary in a run-off with challenger Toni Preckwinkle. Lightfoot did not hesitate to condemn Burke and use him as a campaign posterchild for Chicago Machine corruption – even though he hadn’t been charged until many months later.
Yea, I get the sense that there is a difference. It doesn’t mean that Lightfoot is a bad mayor or isn’t sincere in wanting to fairly represent all of Chicago’s residents. But for some reason in a racial atmosphere that you can cut with a knife in Chicagoland, she seemed to go easier on Austin than she did on Burke.
I’m not saying that Austin should vilified because of the FBI raids of her 34th Ward offices. I am saying that it is hypocrisy when two similar things are treated differently in politics.
The Justice Department went on to indict and then charge Burke, while no charges have been announced regarding Austin. But for me, the principle being missed is that EVERYONE is innocent until proven guilty. In American, you are not declared “guilty” first and then forced to prove your innocence.
In other words, I’m not saying Lightfoot should condemn and punish Austin. I’m saying she shouldn’t condemn or punish anyone, until and only if they are convicted. They deserve their day in court.
I don’t know Alderman Austin but I knew her husband very well when he was the alderman of the 34th Ward, a middle class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. He was a decent person and so is his widow who has served as alderman for 25 years.
Longevity does not seem to mean much in Chicago but longevity means that people have survived in an atmosphere that is contentious and filled with accusations, both political and Federal.
So let’s not jump in and exploit either of these cases and save our judgments until after a jury stands up and issues its ruling.
Until then, Burke and Austin have been both elected by their ward constituents and they deserve respect not just for them but for the people they represent. How damaging is it for residents of the 14th Ward and the 34th Ward when their aldermen are pilloried and their ability to secure services has been hampered by political critics and colleagues?
You don’t have to like either. But you should respect the fact that majorities of voters in their wards believed in both enough to re-elect them to office.
The color of their skin should not be a factor in how we treat either.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter who covered every mayor from Daley to Daley, 1976 through 1992. He currently writes a syndicated column on Chicagoland politics. Visit his personal website at www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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