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Chicago’s African-American population makes up a large percentage of the city. But, despite this, Black people in Chicago are some of the poorest and most segregated people in the country. The federal government has been working to address this problem since 1999, but there is still no significant improvement.
Black Contractor Disparities
The city is home to the largest African-American population in the U.S., at about 33% of its total population. To put this number into perspective, New York City’s Black population represents just under 28% of its total population and L.A.’s Black population stands at 9%. Despite this large percentage, many contractors don’t hire African Americans because they’re not aware that they have a duty under federal law to do so.
The sad truth is that although Chicago was once considered one of the most racially diverse cities in America (think Cabrini Green), today it has become one of the most segregated cities in America. In fact, according to research done by Pew Research Center: “Chicago has more Blacks living in poverty than any other major city in America.”
The numbers show there’s a lot more work to be done
In recent years, Black Congress members have tried to address this problem by introducing bills that would require federal contractors with at least 25 employees to submit information about their workforce diversity. The House has passed such legislation twice since 2016 but never received enough votes in the Senate to become law.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said that she is working on improving contracting results for African-Americans. She has not said how she will do this, but a plan is in the works.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) say that Lightfoot is not doing enough. In fact, they’ve been saying it for years. Since the CBC was formed in 1971, members have been pushing for more inclusion from contractors, specifically in Chicago where they have a lot of influence and can call attention to the problem if need be.
Since Lightfoot has taken over as mayor, things haven’t changed much; minority-owned businesses still aren’t getting their fair share of work on city contracts. And just last month when Lightfoot was asked about what she’s doing to fix this problem, she replied: “What else do we need to do?” It seems like she hasn’t really thought about what steps she needs to take yet — or even why it’s an issue at all.
The Black Caucus knows that this is a deeply entrenched problem and does not expect it to be fixed overnight. But they are working hard to raise awareness about the issue and get more Black contractors on the job. They want to see more Black contractors in Chicago, across the country, and beyond.
The numbers show that the problem of Black contractors in Chicago remains as pervasive today as it was decades ago. A lot of people have tried to address this issue over time, but none have succeeded. Whether or not Lightfoot will be able to make a difference remains to be seen.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Sun-Times: City’s Black contractor numbers still too low, Council’s Black Caucus says
Fox32 Chicago: Chicago’s Black contractor numbers still too low, City Council’s Black Caucus says