Rahm Emanuel losing support in Chicago's African-American community

March 21, 2013 4:07:09 PM PDT
A large majority of African-Americans in Chicago backed Rahm Emanuel for mayor in 2011.

Now many supporters are questioning the mayor on issues like crime and school closings.

When President Barack Obama said that Emanuel would make a fine mayor for Chicago, the city's black voters took the president at his word. He won 59-percent of the black vote in the 2011 mayoral race.

Fast forward over two years to crime, unemployment and school closings and a major block in Emanuel's political base is showing weakness.

"You're hurting my community and I have a problem with that," Chicago Public Schools parent Michelle Young said.

The mostly African-American demonstrators noted correctly that most of the schools on the CPS underutilized list are in predominantly black neighborhoods.

"In any city that's as segregated as Chicago, anytime that you destroy black schools and destroy black communities you can't call it anything but racist," the Executive Director of Action Now Katelyn Johnson said.

Emanuel, who is currently on a skiing vacation with his children who attend private school, is getting the brunt of the racially-charged criticism.

"Why do we have to have 50 kids in a classroom? They don't have it in the white neighborhood," Young said.

Emanuel is also criticized for the rising violent crime rate and high unemployment rates in African-American neighborhoods.

"He came in under the Obama handshake but he won't be given that same luxury in another two years if things don't begin to change," political consultant Sean Howard said.

However CTA Chairman Terry Peterson, who also worked for Mayor Daley, told black voters to consider the nearly $700 million Emanuel plans to invest in South Side public transit projects.

"That will benefit African American families, the African-American community as well as African American businesses," Peterson said.

A recent media poll suggested Emanuel's job approval rating had slipped dramatically. The survey was not broken down by race.

"I think he's going to continue to work hard to garner the African-American community's support," Peterson said.

Emanuel needs to reconnect with former Mayor Daley's roster of African-American community contacts, according to Howard.

"If he had the right assembly of ministers and civic leaders around him, he could possibly come out a little better. His poll numbers wouldn't dip down as much as they have," Howard said.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is left to answer questions about the impending school closures on her own.