African American supporters stood with J.B. Pritzker, the White Democratic frontrunner for Illinois governor, on Tuesday as he apologized for racist comments that were secretly recorded.
Pritzker showed his true colors in a newly released FBI wiretapped conversation with former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who’s serving a prison sentence for attempting to cash in on filling President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. In that conversation, Pritzker recommended selecting Secretary of State Jesse White for an appointment because he “covers you on the African-American thing.” He added that White would be the “least offensive” among other Black candidates.
“I regret the conversations in many ways, the words that I used, and the things that I didn’t say on that call that I would have preferred to have said… I can do better and I have,” Pritzker said, surrounded by Black supporters at a Southern-style cafeteria on the West Side of Chicago.
Not so fast, Pritzker. Everyone in the Black community is not ready to forgive and forget. And many are unimpressed that he could find a few African Americans to stand with him.
“I expect that from them. They are all safe Blacks. A safe Black is not gonna challenge or do anything,” former state Senate President Emil Jones told the Chicago Sun Times. Jones is one of the Black people Pritzker said on tape would be too “offensive.”
Pritzker has entrenched himself in Chicago’s Black community. The billionaire businessman claimed that he’s dedicated his work to children from low-income communities. “I focus on children—Black and brown children. For example, for several years, I’ve been a national leader on early childhood education, early learning—quality childcare and quality pre-school,” he told the Chicago Defender in an April 2017 interview.
But how sincere is Pritzker now that the world knows how he talks about Black people when he thinks no one is listening?
“He’s been running around the Black community talking about all the things he’s gonna do. Blah, blah, blah. … He’s trying to buy the Black vote,” Jones said.
Black voters account for nearly 30 percent of the state’s Democrats. That’s likely the main reason Pritzker selected state Rep. Juliana Stratton, a Black woman, as his running mate for lieutenant governor.
Pritzker holds a significant lead ahead of Illinois’ March 20 primary election. In a poll taken during the last week of January, he had 30 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates. However, his numbers fell 9 percent from a poll taken in October. It remains to be seen how this news will affect Pritzker, but it will likely open the door for alternatives. That’s especially true since nearly 40 percent of Democratic voters are undecided.
Tio Hardiman, the only Black candidate in the race, is running in fourth place with just 2 percent of the vote. The Chicago community organizer is known for his anti-violence advocacy. NewsOne reached out to Hardiman for comments on the Pritzker tape, but he has not yet responded.