Senate Race Remark Is Right On

Sometimes the race card is the right card

By Steve Rhodes
|  Thursday, Oct 29, 2009  |  Updated 7:27 AM CDT
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Jackson is the only African American candidate for Senate from Illinois.

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U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Jackson is catching heat for not repudiating a remark by ally Bobbie Steele, the former Cook County
commissioner, who said "Do we really need another rich white man" in the Senate. But Steele is right. I mean, do we?

After all, the seat Jackson is running for is held by the lone African American in that prestigious chamber - Roland Burris, who is not running for re-election. So the remark is a fair one: Do we really need another rich white man in the U.S. Senate? Or do rich white men have more than enough representation there? Is just one African American too much to ask? 

Jackson's new communications director, former Tribune business reporter Susan Chandler, got it two-thirds right in her response.

“Cheryle believes anyone has a right to run for the Senate and she respects that right. But the makeup of the Senate suggests that the glass ceiling exists and more needs to be done so that not only wealthy candidates can finance winning campaigns,” she said.

That takes care of the "rich" and "man" part, but Chandler sidestepped "white."

“We believe what Bobbie Steele meant to say was that Cheryle was the only candidate in this race who is not self-funded," Chandler added.

No, that's not what Steele intended to say, and the Jackson campaign knows it. She intended to say just what she said. That's Bobbie Steele.

Now, Cheryle Jackson isn't exactly the best candidate to come down the pike. Illinoisans would be better served with better choices in this race.

But when considering the meaning, consequences and symbolism of an all-white Senate - and an all-white Senate filled predominantly with rich men - Steele's question becomes as pertinent as any other in the campaign. It's one we should discuss like adults, not run away from.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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