After graduating from Georgetown University, now Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan moved to South Africa during the height of Apartheid and taught school as a volunteer for Zulu women. When she returned to Chicago, Madigan worked on Chicago’s Westside along with police in the Austin Community to help develop the Positive Alternatives Project, an after school program to help keep young people away from drugs and gangs.
And later, during her 2002 campaign for Attorney General, Madigan was highly visible, especially on the Westside, and accessible for interviews, picnics, church rallies and many community events. She gave some of her finest speeches at African American events.
However, when the South Austin Coalition Community Council wrote to her in March of this year requesting a meeting regarding the firing of the highly respected director of the Westside Regional office, Madigan was only able to attend the meeting for a few minutes.
Despite her background of service and involvement with the Black community, Madigan is now viewed by some as an enemy to some Black female employees. There appears to be an ongoing problem with several professional Black females in Madigan’s office who have recently been told that they lost their jobs because “we’re going in another direction.” The meaning of this broad and very vague statement is not easily understood by terminated employees.
Are African Americans are not supposed to understand vague statements like “we’re going in another direction”? This means you’re FIRED. Why not state this and be honest?
SACCC and other westside organizations presented seven questions to the Attorney General at their meeting:
? What of the high incidence of Black female employees who are on leave or terminated from the Attorney General’s office, including female employees who have reported abusive behavior by white male employees?
? Is it a common practice to meet with certain staff to discuss office matters as a guise to terminate employment?
? What of Black investigators who filed lawsuits alleging civil rights violations after termination from the Illinois Office of the Attorney General?
? Would she discuss disciplining employees who are verbally and physically abusive to Black female employees in her office?
? Why are white employees with less experience on the job receiving higher salaries than Black employees with more experience and more years of service?
? What of a workplace atmosphere created by the high incidence of terminations or leaves of absence of Black female employees?
? And finally, Mexican President Vicente Fox recently offended Blacks by stating “Mexicans in U.S. do work Blacks won’t.” Does the Illinois Attorney General Madigan share that sentiment?
Getting someone from Madigan’s office to talk about these issue isn’t easy. Therefore, the issues Westside organizations have raised about her office leaves many unanswered questions.
The battle for the Westside Attorney General’s office occurred back in 1998. The Austin Weekly News carried a story by then managing editor Brett McNeil in its May 14, 1998 edition, stating that a new office was slated to open after a two year wait.
“After more than two years without a Westside Attorney General’s office,” McNeil wrote, “Austin residents may finally get a new and much needed advocate facility under an agreement tentatively reached last week between the Attorney General and an area landlord who has agreed to donate space for the office.”
It is still a mystery why, in 2005, African Americans still are fighting for fairness, equality and proper representations from elected officials whose salary comes from African American taxpayers as well as White taxpayers. Is the hatred and bitterness so deep in the fabric of our history that it is impossible to rise above it?
African Americans find themselves continuing to prove their worthiness. If you’re a Black cashier at Wal-Mart or Target, you’re often required to work longer hours without regard to your child care needs. If you’re a Black nurse, you are expected to be caring and yelled at by staff. If you’re a Black person in banking or accounting you are watched carefully just in case you have sticky fingers. Black journalists are considered to be not as smart as their counterparts, and serious issues are not for them. If you’re a Black attorney, you are vilified if you take on African American issues (remember Johnny Cochran?)
Of course we understand these statements do not apply to all non-whites. However, if someone finds these statements incorrect, maybe it’s time to question why you do.
Why is the Westside community being denied full service? Is everyone afraid to speak up and take a stand against unfairness? What are the Westside politicians saying? Do they care?
These and other questions need answers now, not just when its election time.