Past Event

What Does It Mean To Be "The Black Candidate"?

Join The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Harold Washington Commemorative Year for this week’s Cafe Society discussion!

Weare please to announce guest speakers at:

  • Dr. Larry Bennett – Tuesday, 3/11, 7:30 pm, Intelligentsia
  • Steve Alexander and Sam Ackerman – Wednesday, 3/12, 12:30 pm, Chicago Cultural Center
  • Timothy W. Wright, III – Thursday, 3/13, 7 pm, Valois

For more about the speakers, see below.

Is it the race of a candidate, the issues he or sheprioritizes, or the race of the people who support him or her that defines whether someone carries the label of “the black candidate”? A little over 20 years ago, Harold Washington’s bid for mayor of Chicago raised these questions. Many remember Harold campaigning proudly as a black candidate.

However, in the current race for President, Barack Obamahas struggledwith this label as it has been applied to him. There are many similarities between how Washington and Obama’s campaigns for office were monitored, discussed, and decided by the media and the public. News reports oftenplace the race of voters and constituents front and center. In what ways is blackness important in the realm of electoral politics?

Scenario 1: Candidate A runs on a platform that is concerned with the incarceration of African-American men and the quality of education in city schools These issues are not part of Candidate B’s platform. Who is the black candidate?

Scenario 2: In a mayoral election in a townwith apredominately white population, Candidate A is African-American and Candidate B is white. Would we callCandidate A the “black candidate”?

Scenario 3: Candidate A iswhite and has the support of the majority of African-Americans and Candidate B does not. Is Candidate A the “black candidate?”

How is a candidate’s skin color relevant in politics? How does it influence the ways we scrutinize a candidate? What is implied when someone is labeled the “black candidate”? What does it imply about the people who support that candidate? AreAfrican-Americans guilty of betrayalif theydo not support the “black candidate”? Is it implicit that the other candidate is the “white candidate”? How has the meaning of this label changed since Harold ran two decades ago?

Suggested Readings:

Obama hopes to avoid ‘the black candidate’ label

Obama Wave Stuns Clinton’s Black Supporters

Racism in ‘post-racial’ America

The Squandering of Obama

More About the Guest Speakers:

Larry Bennett teaches in the Political Science Department at DePaul University. His research interests include city politics and urban development policy. His article “Harold Washington and the Black Urban Regime,” which appeared in Urban Affairs Quarterly in 1993, is one of the most widely cited analyses of the politics of the Harold Washington mayoral administration. In 1983 and 1987 Professor Bennett participated in the Chicago area university faculty committee supporting Washington’s mayoral candidacies, chairing the faculty committee in 1987. Most recently, Professor Bennett has co-edited The New Chicago: A Social and Cultural Analysis, published by Temple University Press in 2006, and Where Are Poor People to Live?: Transforming Public Housing Communities, published by M.E. Sharpe in 2006.

Timothy W. Wright, III served as Special Counsel and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and was the Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development for the City of Chicago. Mr. Wright has also served in various capacities in the administrations of Presidents William Clinton, George H. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as Chief of Staff for Congressman Bobby L. Rush. He has served as a Director for the Southern African Economic Development Fund and as a Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. He has also served as Chairman of the Sub-Saharan African Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Mr. Wright received a dual B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Claremont Men’s College, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and currently practices law with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP.

For more information, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.