Biden can’t name Rahm Emanuel as ambassador because of Laquan McDonald

OPINION: An Ambassador Rahm Emanuel would amount to nothing less than a slap in the face to Black voters who supported Biden, and the Black Lives Matter movement

Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Laquan McDonald. (Photo: Getty Images/McDonald Family)

President Joe Biden reportedly selected Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor and Obama chief of staff, as his pick for U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Emanuel is the worst possible choice for a diplomat to any country. He just doesn’t strike anyone as a diplomatic person because he pisses people off. But more importantly, Rahm Emanuel should not have any role in the Biden administration, or any public office for that matter.  

Emanuel doesn’t know the first thing about Japan or foreign affairs, other than his love for war. As someone who lived and worked in Japan and majored in East Asian Studies in college, I will bet I have far more knowledge of Japan and much more experience in the region than Rahm Emanuel, but that’s another story. And the man should not be allowed anywhere near a government position, not even in charge of mowing the White House lawn, because of his record of disrespecting Black people and covering up the police murder of a Black teen named Laquan McDonald.

Did Joe Biden think we forgot about this, or is he just politically tone deaf?

Read More: Witness in Laquan McDonald shooting settles lawsuit with city

Laquan McDonald x theGrio
Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot by one of Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, murdered in a hail of 15 bullets in October 2014—in the midst of Mayor Emanuel’s reelection bid. (Photo: McDonald Family).

McDonald, 17, was shot by one of Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, murdered in a hail of 15 bullets in October 2014 — in the midst of Mayor Emanuel’s reelection bid. Or those who remember, 2014 was the time of the Black Lives Matter 1.0 uprising, a year that also claimed Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Tamir Rice in Cleveland to police violence.

Van Dyke was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to six years and nine months for second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

It is worth noting that the city of Chicago sketchily settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million, and the video of the atrocity was not released by a court until April 2015 — seven months after Rahm Emanuel was reelected. How convenient. Would he have won had the video of the execution of a Black teen been released in the middle of his reelection campaign? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Read More: Chicago police say gun violence is on the rise this year

The ex-mayor defended his actions in the McDonald case, if that is at all possible. “This is not the first police shooting in Chicago’s history. But it is the shooting that’s led to the biggest changes,” Emanuel said in a Showtime documentary, also claiming he did not view the video footage until it was released. “I know the reforms we’ve made. Body camera with every officer, all 13,000 ahead of schedule. A taser to every officer, training associated with it, de-escalation policies, separation of mental health from a crime” he added referring to policing reforms he blocked every step of the way before taking credit for them.

“Even after the footage went public and demonstrations started, Emanuel opposed a federal civil rights investigation into the Chicago police and failed to deliver on civilian oversight of the department,” as Rep. Jamaal Bowman reminded us in a commentary for The Appeal. “In fact, Emanuel said that police were getting ‘fetal’ in the age of bystander video. Apparently ‘tough-on-crime’ isn’t tough enough for Rahm.” 

Rahm Emanuel x theGrio
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks about Chicago’s weekend of gun violence during a news conference at the Chicago Police Department 6th District station August 6, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

When Biden was considering Emanuel for U.S. trade representative, after backlash from progressives tanked his bid for transportation secretary, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted: “What is so hard to understand about this? Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald. Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership. This is not about the ’visibility’ of a post. It is shameful and concerning that he is even being considered.”

Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, while he was Mayor of Chicago,” tweeted Congressman Mondaire Jones. “That he’s being considered for a cabinet position is completely outrageous and, honestly, very hurtful.”

As consequential as the death of Laquan McDonald and Rahm Emanuel’s cover up may have been, this is not the only reason for denying the man such an important and cushy job. Emanuel has a long record of disrespecting Black people in Chicago and beyond. Obama must have seen something in him to keep him around — and Biden wants him back — but what that might be is anyone’s guess.

Let us not forget that as mayor, Rahm Emanuel slashed millions of dollars from the Chicago public schools, with draconian cuts to counselors and social workers, and two-thirds of school librarians. He closed 50 schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and he pushed for public school privatization and for-profit alternative schools, charter schools and undermining teachers’ unions.

Emanuel has displayed sexism and racism and employed harmful racial stereotypes toward other groups. For example, in 2019 he asked an Asian-American woman, a climate activist: Are you “up for adoption? … You’re quiet, right? You do a lot of studying?”

If you disrespect the AAPI community, and your Japanese experience is limited to having a sushi roll named after you, you should not be the U.S. ambassador to Japan. But if your legacy in government service centers around your coverup of the execution of a Black boy by a white police officer — and bullying people — well, that should further disqualify you from this and any other job.

An Ambassador Rahm Emanuel would amount to nothing less than a slap in the face to Black voters who supported Biden, and the Black Lives Matter movement. If Biden wants to maintain Black support, he must not give Rahm Emanuel any position in the administration.


Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove

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