During Black History Month, we just got a great political history lesson listening to the wiretapped conversation between then-Governor Rod Blagojevich and now gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker from November 14, 2008.
The gents sounded like slavemasters as they talked about which Blacks they could pick for a job. This racial conversation revealed true colors as they considered Black people as political pawns.
It was real time politics, behind the scenes, with Blagojevich in charge of filling Barack Obama’s vacated United States Senate seat. As we all know, Rod’s maneuvers to parlay that golden goose opportunity into his golden moment landed him in prison for 14 years.
Pritzker, a member of the billionaires club, was on the phone trying to help the powerful one decide whom to put in Barack’s place, while also trying to get himself a position in state government from Rod, like, maybe Comptroller, Treasurer, State’s Attorney or Secretary of State.
Together, they were appraising Black folks, powerful Black folks, who could rise to the U.S. Senate. Pritzker and Blagojevich graded these potential Black candidates by their white standards on what black is. They judged how white and mainstream a Black person was, which made them acceptable or unacceptable for the seat.
This is very remindful of the “brown paper bag test.” That was a color discrimination test used by many Black fraternities, sororities, churches and nightclubs in the early 1900s, whereby if a Black person’s skin tone was darker than a brown paper bag, they were denied inclusion.
In Rod and JB’s wiretapped chat, who is acceptable and why becomes the amazement of the conversation. Though the candid conversation is insulting, it provides a real view of how powerful white folks, friendly white folks even, view Black people.
Let’s not be confused by the liberal image and label – the Black history lesson here is that white people of all stripes and persuasions do not like an outspoken Black person or one who fights for Black empowerment.
The candid conversation is insulting and provides a real view of how powerful white folks, friendly white folks even, view Black people.
Insults All Around
So it goes then for Emil Jones, who was a powerhouse as President of the Illinois Senate. In Emil’s own terms, he “brought home the bacon” to his community. He fought hard and he won. He played the political game to a T, like a skillful athlete.
Jones has been one of the most productive politicians the Black community has ever had. He knows the political process and worked the hell out of it in Springfield. He was a relentless advocate for Black causes. He was not safe, and was unapologetically Black.
But in their wiretapped conversation, Pritzker called Emil Jones, “a little more crass” than some of the other potential candidates for Barack’s empty seat. Crass.
Emil Jones was so crass that he took a young man – Barack Obama – who did not have a snowball’s chance in hell to attain higher office, and he mentored and tutored him. His tongue was sharp, his fist was powerful, and he shaped a future President of the United States straight out of the Illinois senate. He was firm and crass, perhaps.
In their wiretapped conversation, Rod and JB viewed then-Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. as a nightmare. I wonder why. When his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, went to Syria on a rescue mission, he invited then-Congressman Rod Blagojevich to go along as an interpreter. Rod went and I was impressed that they were friends. Well now, you never really know, do you?
And then they discussed the long-standing and very able Secretary of State Jesse White. They viewed him as a good safe Black who was also white, according to JB, and they liked the white part of him very much. That means he would not rock the political boat, and he was compared to being black and white, like Obama.
Jesse is a good guy, but different than Emil Jones, and did not have his eye on the seat anyway, so the conversation about his appointment was moot in the first place. Jesse is happy with his Tumblers.
And then they joked about appointing the brilliant Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, which they said would be “f-ing funny” because of Wright’s “God damn America” statement that went viral and almost caused Obama to withdraw from the presidential race.
Wright has more sense in his little finger than the two white guys playing kingmaker have in their entire bodies. But politics was not his game. The Wright statement was so taken out of context because it was just a few words in a much longer sermon.
The point of “God damn America” was talking about slavery, where people were captive and forced to work for free, where it was illegal to marry or go to school and where women and men were raped and hung and intentionally overlooked and forgotten.
Black People Are “Offensive?”
In the eyes of the powerful and rich men, Blacks are commodities, “things,” and indeed, they did label our leaders – the best of us, the most educated, the most powerful among us.
In Rod and JB’s wiretapped conversation, they reduced them all to niggers and they were looking for “the one that’s least offensive,” in Pritzker’s words.
So, JB, does that mean that Blacks in general and as a whole are “offensive?” We need to understand to what degree whites accept the offense.
Pritzker has been a good guy with his philanthropies as he has donated to the Black community, with his innocence program and food program and educational program.
But I just became frightened as to how the man really views us. Blacks are “offensive.” What are you saying, sir?
Pritzker almost immediately apologized after the wiretapped conversation became public news. He said that secret wiretapped conversation almost 10 years ago did not reflect the “best of him.” And indeed it did not.
But it’s the words and deeds done in secret, when no one is looking, that determines a person’s true character, and true colors came out in this conversation between Pritzker and Blagojevich.
If JB Pritzker thought that Illinois Senate President Emil Jones was crass, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. would be a nightmare, and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright was “f-ing funny,” he does not deserve to lead the State of Illinois as Governor.
How insulting. Emil Jones, who is supporting Chris Kennedy, has asked that Pritzker withdraw from the race, and said that the apology JB made to him was not accepted. Personally, I sign up for the Crass Party.
And by the way, for Black History Month, you should buy a copy of N’DIGO Legacy: Black Luxe – 110 African American Icons of Contemporary History, which features N’DIGO cover story profiles of Emil Jones, Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett and Jesse White, among others, explaining the true essence of who these Black community leaders are.
As for the two rich and powerful white men involved in this despicable wiretapped conversation, Rod Blagojevich whiles away in prison and JB Pritzker is now disgraced.
Pritzker needs to hang up his “public servant” candidate shingle and go back to being a rich guy with hotels. True colors appeared on his way to Springfield.
This was not just another conversation. It was a white sentiment, a racist conversation, on how JB Pritzker really views Black leadership.
No forgiveness here, sir.