No one in Chicago can play the race card like Rep. Bobby Rush.
When then-state Sen. Barack Obama challenged him for his congressional seat, Rush had his allies call Obama “the white man in blackface” and question his affiliation with “elite” institutions such as Harvard and the University of Chicago. After the shooting of Trayvon Martin, by a Florida neighborhood vigilante who thought he was firing at a gangbanger in a hoodie, Rush donned a hoodie on the House floor. The chair ruled him out of order for violating congressional dress codes.
Now, the former Illinois Black Panther Party Minister of Defense has some racially-charged words for Sen. Mark Kirk’s proposal to mass-arrest member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. Kirk suggested all 18,000 alleged GD’s should be thrown in jail. Rush’s response?
That’s an “upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution to a problem he knows nothing about,” he told the Sun-Times.
Kirk grew up in Kenilworth, attended New Trier Township High School, and now lives in Highland Park, all many, many tax brackets away from the South Side that Rush represents in Congress. But saying that a senator can’t suggest solutions to gang violence because he’s white and privileged obscures some of Rush’s valid points about solving the city’s gang problem. Such as spending money on job creation, job training and affordable housing.
As the co-dean of Illinois’ congressional delegation, along with Luis Gutierrez, Rush has served the 1st District well for the last 20 years. His preoccupation with race is one reason he’s so popular in that historically black district, which has been represented by an African-American longer than any in the country. But it’s also a reason he has no influence outside it. When Rush ran for mayor in 1999, as a Great Black Hope against Richard M. Daley, he got 29 percent of the vote -- even losing some black wards that saw through his race baiting.