3 Stupid, Racist Responses to Chance’s $1 Million Dollar Action

Yesterday Chance the Rapper announced a $1-million-dollar donation to Chicago Public Schools and a call to action on the part of his fellow celebrities and his fans.  The press conference and the gift were in response to an “unsuccessful” meeting between Chance and Governor Bruce Rauner about the $215 million dollars that the governor has been holding back from Chicago Public Schools since the beginning of the calendar year.

I wrote after last week’s meeting that I was excited to hear about Chance’s ideas.  And I was glad to see him step up and take action.  But, to my great surprise, there has been a host of other responses to Chance’s involvement from people I know and respect that range from subtle racism to downright stupidity.  So, I thought I’d post this helpful list of 3 ways people SHOULD NOT respond to Chance and his involvement.

  1. Yeah, well…I gave a lot of money to Chicago schools…so…

This is how Bruce Rauner decided to respond to Chance’s gift.  Rauner made the statement, but I am certain that countless other philanthropic donors to CPS schools are thinking it.  The underlying thought is that if giving money to CPS schools is what makes a person a champion for the Black and Brown children who attend them…then I am more of a hero than Chance.

But, a statement like this misses the broader point of Chance’s donation and attempts to diminish its impact.  Yes, this statement might just be a racist microaggression from wealthy, White billionaire posing as a reasoned response from a sitting governor.

First and foremost, Chance’s donation of $1 million dollars is somewhere around 20% of his total net worth.  Bruce Rauner’s net worth has been estimated near $1 billion dollars.  The $200-million-dollar donation that would represent the same level of personal sacrifice from Rauner would get CPS a lot closer to filling that budget gap.

But, that was not the point of Chance’s press conference anyway.  This was a powerful protest against the injustice of a school funding system that has shortchanged Black and Brown students in Chicago for decades.  So, if you are currently an active participant in or silent observer of that injustice, don’t compare yourself to Chance.  No matter how much money you’ve given.

  1. But…but…Chance’s dad worked for the mayor.

This was insanely tone-deaf “news” from the Chicago Sun-Times coverage of Chance’s action.  The story looks past the donation.  It looks past the call to action.  It looks past the little Black boy, all grown up and back to stand up for all the little Black boys and little Black girls coming behind him Chatham and communities like it all over the city.  And what does it see? Seemingly the only thing that the education writers at the outlet can see…Rahm Emmanuel.

The obvious goal here is to suggest that somehow Rahm is controlling Chance behind the scenes.  But, that claim is ludicrous at best.

Forget about the fact that the article suggests that Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, is somehow beholden to the mayor based on the fact that he once worked for him.  Mr. Bennett has worked for a lot of people over the years and some of them have been a lot more powerful and a lot more beloved than the mayor of Chicago.  Ever heard of President Barack Obama?

But, Chance is a guy who has made his career off of not being controlled by one the most controlling industries there is; the music industry.  He has forgone millions in contract offers all to maintain his right to self-determination.  Are we really to think that this brilliant, young revolutionary is giving up on one his most prized values for Rahm Emmanuel?

I know that Rahm is currently the mayor that everybody loves to hate.  But, this?  Stop it.

Last, but not least…

  1. You’re just a rapper. Let the professionals deal with this.

That’s the one that really irks me.  One thing you realize early on as a community organizer is that government “professionals” need constant supervision from the regular folk.  In my opinion, the fact that Chance is not a legislator, or a policy wonk, or a union leader, or a lobbyist, or any other version of a government “professional” is what makes his engagement so powerful.

He has standing as Black man, as a community member, as a father, as a former CPS student and yes…as a celebrity.  His experience of the outcomes of the decisions made by the “professionals” is more akin to the everyday person than is the experience of individuals snug in the bubble of government and politics.

Some of the leading “professionals” have a very jacked-up view of the Black youth for whom they claim to be fighting.  Just look at how a leading democrat conflates the public personas of Chief Keef and Chance the Rapper.

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Does this Democratic state legislator think that any young Black man who raps must also be a violent thug? Very “professional”.

The professionals have been at this for a very long time.  If they were going to solve the problem, it would have been solved by now.  What is needed is the passionate involvement of Chance the Rapper and the millions of other non-professionals throughout the city and state whose families, children, and communities are being adversely impacted.

Chance the Rapper does not represent a one-stop solution for all of the problems that surround education in Chicago.  But, he did something powerful yesterday.  Don’t try to diminish that.

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Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.