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Ald. Toni Preckwinkle's Multi-Cultural Act

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Ald. Toni Preckwinkle's Multi-Cultural Act
Jack Higgins

Ald. Toni Preckwinkle found her image as a politician with multi-cultural appeal put to the test at today’s City Council meeting, as she got involved in two racial controversies -- and tried to find a middle ground in each.

First was a contract granted to RCN, the cable company. Preckwinkle noted, with displeasure, that the company’s board isn’t exactly diverse.

“I understand this company has no African-Americans on its board,” Preckwinkle said. “Or Asian-Americans.”

The measure passed 28-19, with a number of minority aldermen voting against. Even then, Preckwinkle wasn’t finished. She asked that the city request a meeting with RCN “to suggest they adopt a board more in keeping with the makeup of Chicago.”

Next was the appoint of Juan Rangel as a park board commissioner. Rangel, chief executive officer of the United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, was accused by an African-American alderman of making disparaging statements about the black race.

“I am very concerned by the comments he’s made regarding the relationship between Mexican-Americans and African-Americans,” said Ald. Freddrena Lyle, without quoting those comments directly. “I’m worried that they could cloud your judgment as you divvy up resources. You’ve already stated that, in your views, in your attempt to distinguish Mexicans and African-Americans, you have denigrated African-Americans. You slighted and diminished the contributions of an entire people.”

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street, “In some of his writings, Rangel has noted differences in Latino and African American efforts to achieve equality and political power in the United States, voicing his opposition to some of the protest tactics employed by various African Americans and Latinos.”

Latino alderman took offense to Lyle’s attack on Rangel. Then Preckwinkle stepped in. For many years, Preckwinkle said, she sat next to Ald. Dorothy Tillman, a black nationalist who often accused Latinos of taking advantage of the “blood, sweat and tears of African-Americans in pushing for civil rights and set asides.”

Preckwinkle compared Rangel’s statements about African-Americans to Tillman’s attitudes toward Latinos.

“This is a town in which African-Americans and Latinos are in the majority, and we need to work together,” Preckwinkle said. “It’s entirely OK to lift up your tribe, as long as you don’t disparage another tribe. I’ve read several things that you’ve said that lead me to raise this concern. Be more careful in your comments when you talk about the choices that African-Americans and Latinos have made to achieve equality in this country.”

Rangel was approved, and Preckwinkle had another chance to display the skills she’ll need to manage a diverse county.

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