CHICAGO — Why should anybody believe what Gov. J.B. Pritzker says at news conferences?
That's a serious question. Over and over again, the governor celebrates overstated coronavirus testing statistics (total specimens rather than people tested) and makes executive orders based on dumbed-down COVID-19 virus positivity calculations that make headlines as if he's citing indisputable facts.
Forgive me, I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll get into the latest examples of the Pritzker administration's coronavirus propaganda another time.
First, let's consider Pritzker's pledges to be an advocate for Black Illinoisans without actually doing anything substantive to address the concerns and demands of African Americans.
When statistics first showed Black neighborhoods got the hardest hit by COVID-19, Pritzker promised that community health groups would lead a surge to boost testing. It didn't happen.
Black state legislators had to blast Pritzker's administration for weeks on end until the state finally put testing sites in African American ZIP codes with an alarming number of positive cases and deaths.
And this week, Pritzker stood in front of news cameras in the wake of lacking murder charges against the Louisville, Kentucky, officers involved in the shooting incident that killed Breonna Taylor, and pandered to the Black community.
The governor spoke of peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets across the state.
"They're calling out for true racial justice where the law treats people of color as equals and delivers of the promise of justice," the governor read aloud from note cards at a Wednesday news conference.
"They're calling on us as leaders to address to police misconduct that is too often fatal. Here in Illinois, we hear you and stand with you."
What Pritzker didn't say is that despite "hearing" those cries, he refuses to do anything about it.
The governor hasn't ordered House Speaker Michael Madigan to use the Democratic legislative supermajority to dismantle state laws that harbor a "thin blue line" code of silence in police departments, and protect cops accused of misconduct from facing punishment.
Pritzker hasn't demanded lawmakers take quick action on state Attorney General Kwame Raoul's proposal to license police officers in the state as a way to increase law enforcement accountability.
And he continues to ignore the call of state Rep. LaShawn Ford and African American activists who have been pleading for a sit-down meeting to talk about the need for an executive order to create an "African American Rapid Relief Task Force" that could respond to the underlying causes of violence — institutional racism, government disinvestment and neglect in Black communities — and treat the loss of life as a public health problem.
Marlon Watson, founder of It's Hard Being Black — an organization that he says got its name straight from the governor's mouth in the wake of George Floyd's death under a Minneapolis cop's knee — was watching when Pritzker said he heard the cries of protesters calling for racial justice in Illinois.
Watson, who also heads American Descendants of Slavery Chicago, heard Pritzker address "every Black woman, every black mother, sister, to their brothers, to their husbands, and their friends, that I will not rest until the state of Illinois and this country treat you with the respect and equality that is your most basic human right."
The activist from Chicago's Chatham neighborhood was paying close attention when Pritzker said, "Activism is a vital part of our democracy. And it will take activism plus action to build ourselves to the state, into the nation that we strive to become. I will continue fight for justice and equity today and every day going forward."
Watson says he picked up on a pattern in Gov. Pritzker's public statements concerning the Black community.
"Once again, what he's saying, it's all clearly bull----. Hypocritical lip service," Watson said of Pritzker's Wednesday remarks.
"When something happens, he's out giving the perception that he cares about the Black community. But he won't do anything legislatively. We're tired of it. It's just bull----. I don't know why [the media] prints it when he says it. ... He clearly doesn't mean it."
And that's the inspiration for Watson and a group of activists' planned return visit to Pritzker's Gold Coast mansion this weekend. They'll arrive around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, governor.
Watson's hoping you'll meet him on the sidewalk — if, that is, you're not too busy doing nothing to make good on promises to deliver justice and equity to Black communities in Illinois.
Mark Konkol, recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, wrote and produced the Peabody Award-winning series, "Time: The Kalief Browder Story." He was a producer, writer and narrator for the "Chicagoland" docu-series on CNN, and a consulting producer on the Showtime documentary, "16 Shots
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