MATTHEWS: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot finds out what happens when ‘going woke’ spectacularly backfires

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference at City Hall, in Chicago, Wednesday morning, July 22, 2020. (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Over the last few years, Democratic politicians across the country have found themselves in an ongoing competition to determine who is the most “woke” of them all.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, defines “woke” as “having or marked by an active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.” It’s the shorthand version of “stay woke” which, according to Merriam-Webster, “became part of a wider discussion in 2014, immediately following the [police officer-involved] shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”

The most recent entrant into the “woke” Olympics is Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot was elected two years ago as the Windy City’s first black female and openly lesbian mayor. Last week her administration announced what could only be described as a racist policy on whom she would allow to interview her on the topic of her two-year mayoral anniversary.

According to a tweet from NBC Chicago reporter Mary Ann Ahern at the time, a “spokeswoman says Lightfoot is granting one on one interviews — only to Black or Brown journalists.”

Lightfoot confirmed it in a series of tweets a couple of days later.

“It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly White in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American,” she said. “Diversity and inclusion is imperative across all institutions including media. In order to progress we must change. This is exactly why I’m being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city.”

Lightfoot gave no explanation for how her “diversity and inclusion” idea could be achieved in the Chicago press by excluding journalists based on race, but there were some in the media who expressed opposition to it, including the Chicago Tribune’s Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter who tweeted that he canceled the interview she had okayed after her office declined to reverse course on her “POC reporters only” policy.

Though sympathetic, the National Association of Black Journalists also issued a statement in opposition to Lightfoot’s plan. “…we must state again, for the record, that NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism.”

Most embarrassing, however, were the local minority journalists who stated they supported the plan — but only because it might give some of them access to the mayor that had previously not been granted.

“South Side Weekly did request an interview with [Mayor Lightfoot] and unsurprisingly received no response and no fancy letter. But we’ve never relied on the mayor’s script to do our groundbreaking work. So it’s just another day over here,” the publication’s editor-in-chief Jacqueline Serrato tweeted after Lightfoot had given her explainer.

“The Triibe” editor-in-chief Tiffany Walden explained that her reporters had long had trouble getting interview requests granted by Lightfoot’s office to begin with and called on the mayor to do more to show her support for reporters of color beyond just allowing access for interviews to be done on the subject of her first two years as mayor.

“[Walden] said her outlet has struggled to get timely responses from the Lightfoot administration and been excluded from press calls. Wednesday’s interview was the first one-on-one meeting with the mayor for a Triibe staffer, she said,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

So what we’ve learned from Lightfoot’s virtue signaling stunt over the past week is that one of the biggest hurdles facing black and Hispanic journalists in the Chicago press corps is Lightfoot’s own office.

That’s quite the spectacular backfire, and quite frankly it couldn’t be happening to a more deserving politician.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.