Chicago’s next mayoral election, scheduled for April 2, 2019, will feature two black female nominees for the first time in the city’s history. Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle are not just running for mayor, they are also competing for the trust of Black constituents across Chicago.

So far, sentiments toward the two candidates seem lukewarm, at best. Due to their respective controversial political pasts, neither candidate can boast a high approval rating among Black Chicagoans. The concern is that the disregard for Black lives which many feel is evident in both Lightfoot’s and Preckwinkle’s recent pasts will carry into their decisions in the mayoral seat.  

Chicago’s Black constituents will have to choose between two Black woman criticized for negligence, corruption, and criminalization during their time working closely with the city's police department

The seven year anniversary of Rekia Boyd’s murder brought attention to Lori Lightfoot’s involvement in the lack of criminal justice around her trial and her murder. When Rekia Boyd was killed by an off duty police officer in 2012, Lightfoot, as head of the Chicago Police Board, failed to hold the officer accountable, allowing him to resign instead of facing criminal charges. She was also criticized for showing no apparent sympathy toward the families of Rekia Boyd and other victims of police brutality who sought justice.

In her time working with the Chicago police department, Lightfoot defended accused police officers against public scrutiny, financial liability, and professional accountability. Yet, like Kamala Harris, Lightfoot has adopted the campaign approach of attempting to paint her work as a prosecutor in a more left-leaning, liberal light. Lightfoot’s campaign has tried to make her more relatable by highlighting her working-class upbringing and her marginalization as a Black lesbian. However, focusing her on her identity does nothing to address the police violence she allowed to go unchecked for years in Chicago and the continued lack of action against it that might come as a result of her election for Mayor.

Lightfoot claims that, if elected, she will continue to make police reform one of her top priorities. But, if she couldn’t bring down police officers for misconduct while working within the police board and CPD task force, how could she do so from the outside as Mayor?

On the other hand, Toni Preckwinkle has too been facing backlash for her professional decisions and controversies surrounding people she has chosen to ally herself with. As Cook County Board President she was a vocal supporter of her predecessor in the role, Joseph Berrios, who by association has cast suspicion on to her campaign. A 2017 Chicago Tribune/ProPublica investigation found that Berrios placed heavier property taxes onto poor minority neighborhoods and offered leniency to wealthy white constituents. And, more recently, she had to fire on of her aides for likening her opponent Lightfoot to a Nazi.

Additionally, her campaign had to apologize after emails which linked back to her campaign fundraising website were sent out requesting funds to help sex-trafficking victim Cytonia Brown. Despite the apology, Preckwinkle is yet to return the money that was raised from the stunt.

Electing a Black woman doesn't guarantee change within the Black community. Black voters have raised their standards for open political positions and are looking at candidates' track records for evidence of future decision making. Black voters rely on Black candidates to see their community when other non-Black candidates cannot and will not. Now, more than ever, the political arena seems open to participation from Black women. But electing Black women who won’t fight the greatest injustices against Black voters is a sorely missed opportunity.  

Electing either of these candidates means dismissing the concerns of the Black residents of Chicago who have long been yearning for political accountability and transparency in their city. Chicago should not be made to feel that they have to choose between the lesser of two disappointing options.

Unfortunately, for now, voters in the city have no choice but to hope these candidates will make better decisions in the future than they have in their political pasts.



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