When the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) denounced Chicago’s traditional racism and segregation as “education apartheid” and linked school closings to corporate privatization of schools and real estate speculation, it helped provide a clear narrative that I heard over and over again from Chicagoans at rallies, hearings and meetings all over the city.
Apartheid is a harsh word, but it was accurate and on point.
So when CTU President Karen Lewis came out in support Fight for $15 and expressed strong opposition to cuts in vital city services that hit hardest at Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, she helped cement her reputation as a leader of the working class against racism and class exploitation.
Clarity on race and class is essential for her to win a mayoral election in Chicago. Because what is good for the working class is good for the city as a whole.
That is why she is ahead in early polls for the 2015 mayoral election against the hated Rahm Emanuel, even though she has not formally announced. Compromising on this kind of clarity will not be in the best interests of either Karen Lewis or the city’s beleaguered working class. Calls for Karen to “soften her image” or “tone down her rhetoric” are really calls for Karen to abandon the principles for she is known.
We will need class and racial clarity because that will bring out people who are alienated and dispossessed; people who do not normally vote. That is the clarity that will propel Karen Lewis to victory along with the independent candidates running for City Council in working class areas across the city.
It is also the kind of clarity we will need after an election victory for Karen and the City Council independents.The city’s corporate and financial interests will try to strangle their social justice agenda at birth. Does anyone seriously think that the financial barons of LaSalle Street want social justice for the city’s working class?
We could well end up in a battle that will make the “Council Wars” of the Harold Washington days look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We will need an empowered multi-racial working class movement across the city to back up our elected representatives.
Clarity on class and race is essential if an electoral victory is to mean anything.