Lightfoot’s press statement progressive, not anti-white

Yari Tapia, Opinion Editor

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is receiving backlash and getting sued for a May 19 statement, where Lightfoot said she will only grant interviews following her second year mayoral anniversary with journalists of color. Former U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard said Lightfoot was promoting anti-white racism; however, Lightfoot’s statement is progressive rather than insular. 

Chicago is very diverse in population, but as Lightfoot wrote in her letter, the Chicago press corps is very white and male. Lightfoot made this decision so the media can properly reflect the citizens of Chicago. Poor representation in the press corps is a disservice to Chicago residents. Everyone deserves fair representation.

“I think the misunderstanding is that it feels exclusionary,” assistant vice president of Academic, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Monique Bernoudy, said. “What the mayor is calling for is inclusion and a shift to try to dismantle a systemic barrier that she has brought to light in terms of diversity and inclusion amongst the press corps.” 

White journalists are completely entitled to their opinions. However, it’s important to note that Lightfoot’s statement isn’t a personal attack. Lightfoot made the statement to bring forth more opportunities for journalists of color. 

Lightfoot’s statement pushes the realization that the diverse citizens of Chicago are not being prioritized. White people have always had representation in the media; it’s a privilege that has been institutionalized.

“Whiteness is the thing that, any way you slice and dice demographics, there are categories that give people by virtue of the category itself, power and acceptability,” Kathryn Cady, associate professor of rhetoric and public communication, said, “It doesn’t give them trouble in life and generally in our world. Being white is the thing that gives a person power mobility.” 

In America, whiteness is the default, but it doesn’t have to be. There need to be more conversations about giving people of color more opportunities.

“It needs to be raised as a structural problem,” Mehdi Semati, professor and chair of the Department of Communication, said via email, “I think it would need to be addressed and discussed as a matter of supporting and strengthening communities of color, which would be beneficial to the entire society.”

When discussing how conversations about race can be led, Bernoudy said everyone is responsible for learning beyond their lived experiences and the heritages of their own and many others.

Lightfoot’s statement and decision gives everyone the opportunity to reflect on the imbalances of power and who has or doesn’t have certain opportunities because of the color of their skin.

The decision gives everyone the chance to learn about the problems of race, privilege and even colorism in America.

Historically, people of color have been heavily mistreated in this country. Implicit bias allows these systemic mistreatments to continue. Hopefully with Lightfoot’s decision to give minority journalists priority, a positive change can be shown through the city of Chicago.