Chicago mayoral candidate Rev. James Meeks stirred up a political storm Thursday when he said minority-owned business contracts should only be awarded to African-Americans.
The Democratic Chicago State Senator justified his response by defining what he considers a minority.
“I don’t think women, Asians and Hispanics should be able to use that title. That’s why our numbers cannot improve, because we use women, Asians and Hispanics, who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against,” Meeks told WVON Radio.
Meeks is among the major candidates running for Mayor of Chicago, a list which includes: Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former U.S. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Some Mayoral contenders weighed in on Sen. Meeks’ remarks to myFOXchicago.com.
“I think that the term has been around for a long time and include many different groups who has suffered some form of discrimination. Right now, the Hispanic community is being discriminated against heavily throughout the United States,” Gery Chico said.
“I think it’s important for us to continue to work to ensure that women have an opportunity to contract with the city, and that African-Americans and Latinos have opportunities to contract with the city,” Miguel del Valle added.
And the only female contender in the mayoral race added her thoughts.
“I think the whole point of the set-asides is to integrate our economy, people into the economy, who have previously been excluded, and that includes women and African Americans and Hispanics, is a whole list of people,” Carol Moseley Braun said.
This news emerges as Rev. Meeks remains under fire from advocacy groups for his positions on gay rights. He recently voted against civil unions for gays in the state legislature.
“A political decision would have been to vote for civil unions so I could win the gay vote. But I wasn’t trying to win votes. I was trying to send a stronger message that I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I don’t think politicians do us a service when they vote only on what’s going to be right or good for the next election. And I wouldn’t be mayor making decisions based on what’s right or good for the next election,” Meeks told the Chicago Sun-Times this month.
Rev. Meeks made the controversial statement on city contracts as he campaigned for education reform on WVON Radio.
The reverend is trying to pass a student-vouching program to help curtail Chicago’s struggling public school system. He wants to allocate at least $4,500 to financially deserving Chicago students and give them the opportunity to choose and decide on a school they want to attend, reported the Chicago Tribune. The bill passed in the Senate, but failed to pass in the House of Representatives.
Rev. Meeks has focused his campaign largely on education, advocating for the replacement of the current CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
Meeks is chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, and chair of the Illinois Senate’s education committee. He also serves on the board of directors of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and as head pastor of the 20,000 member Salem Baptist Church.
Meeks’ career has often been marked by scandal. He reportedly called Mayor Daley a “slave master,” and referred to black ministers and elected officials as “house ni**ers.”
Election day for Chicago’s mayoral race is February 22, 2011.