According to FOX-TV Chicago, Meeks made these comments while discussing his education policy during a forum radio:
"I think that the word 'minority,' from our standpoint, should mean African-American," Meeks said, according to FOX-TV, a conservative news station known for its political bent.
"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. We fought for these laws based on discrimination. Now, groups that have not been discriminated against are the chief beneficiaries."
The comments caused a firestorm of controversy among other elected officials, conservatives, voters and business leaders, who asked Sen. Meeks to clarify what appears to be reverse discrimination and sexist statements about women, Hispanic and Asian business-owners not deserving the benefits of affirmative action.
Now Meeks says his comments were taken out of context and is trying to distance himself from the remarks. In a statement released late Thursday, Bryan Zises, director of Sen. Meeks's campaign, said:
"Senator Meeks strongly believes all minority and women-owned businesses deserve their fair share of City contract opportunities.
"But there's no pretending that Chicago has a history of systemic corruption in its minority and women-owned business program and that African-American owned businesses are the most underrepresented among city contractors. Lucrative contracts have repeatedly gone to companies disguised as minority- or women-owned, resulting in multiple investigations, firings and imprisonment on this issue."
Indeed, Chicago has a long history of political corruption, but Sen. Meeks has a history of foot-in-mouth statements that could very well jeopardize his candidacy in a city that has a history of deep-seated racial politics.
Several years ago, Meeks reportedly likened Mayor Richard M. Daley to a "slave master'' and called some elected officials "house n*ggers who are gonna fight you to protect that white man.''
For another example of Chicago's racial politics, one need look no further than the tumultuous election of the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983. Washington battled through the rough and tumble ranks of the notoriously corrupt white Democratic machine politics that still exist today. Washington was not unscathed and the battle to fill his seat after his untimely death in 1987 created a lasting schism among black politicians.
So in an already racially tenuous environment in the city and across the nation, any seemingly disparaging comments about any group could sound the death knell for a public official running for office. In Chicago, blacks make up 33 percent of the 1.3-million likely voters, while whites make up 36 percent of the electorate, according to Labels & Lists, a voter-data agency.
Sen. Meeks is also a member of a crowded field of candidates running to replace retiring Mayor Daley on Feb. 22, including Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, former U.S. Sen. Carol Mosley Braun, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and Gery Chico, a former Daley staffer.
Not to mention that the black vote is already splintered among three candidates, including himself, Braun and Davis.
Still, his camp is looking to the future:
"As mayor, he would put an end to the corruption and lack of accountability that has been allowed to go unchecked," Zises said in the statement.
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