CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot lashed out at the Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday, a day after the union posted a meme on Twitter, showing her as a cartoon Scooby-Doo villain dressed up as a white police officer, calling the image “clearly racist” and “deeply offensive.”
Lightfoot admitted she hadn’t actually seen the tweet, but she said it was described to her. It featured an image of the African American Mayor tied up to a chair, dressed in a CPD uniform, as the white characters from Scooby-Doo removed a mask of a white man’s face from her head — a clear reference to the end of every Scooby-Doo cartoon, when the villain would be revealed to be another character wearing a mask.
“Well, I haven’t actually seen that tweet, but it has been described to me, and I guess I’ll say this. If that kind of tweet, which is clearly racist, had been put forward by a right-wing group, we would rightly be denouncing them, and I think our scorn should be no less because it was put out by the CTU,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot and the CTU have been at odds ever since the 2019 mayoral election, when they endorsed rival Toni Preckwinkle. The animosity between them escalated just months after she took office, as teachers staged an 11-day strike, and both the mayor and union leaders repeatedly exchanged heated accusations at each other.
The union’s tweet on Wednesday — which has since been deleted — included hashtags calling for the city to defund the Chicago Police Department, and remove officers from the Chicago Public Schools — issues the mayor has said she opposes.
“It’s certainly disappointing when a group that professes to be educators, people who are in our classrooms teaching our young people, would engage in these kinds of really deeply offensive and disappointing tactics. It’s concerning to me, because our young people are always watching. They’re always watching our leaders,” Lightfoot said. “I think, the more the CTU engages in this kind of thing, the less and less relevant they are to important narratives in our city, and I think their actions really speak for themselves. I don’t think I need to say more than I think the scorn that they rightfully earned on Twitter with people being outraged and attacking them for stooping to such tactics. It is borrowing a playbook from the right wing, and it’s disappointing.”
Anti-Defamation League Midwest Regional Director David Goldenberg took to Twitter on Wednesday night to demand an apology from the CTU.
“Deeply concerned about this tweet and image. @CTULocal1 needs to do better than this – and owes @chicagosmayor an apology,” he wrote.
— David Goldenberg (@dgoldenb5) June 18, 2020
CTU spokesperson Chris Geovanis defended the tweet.
“Our intent was, as it always has been, to stir the powerful from their slumber and stand steadfast behind those Black people – and especially young Black leaders – in their struggle for a new Chicago built on real justice, not failed policies and broken promises,” Geovanis wrote in an email.
Geovanis also criticized the mayor’s resistance to many reforms being sought by African American activists in the growing push to address racial inequities in the U.S.
“Black organizers and activists have been risking their lives to advance a set of clear demands to begin to correct injustices perpetrated by our racist system: to establish a civilian accountability police board, to defund the police and invest directly in our communities, to remove CPD from our public schools and invest in students’ well-being, to institute an elected civilian review board to govern our police, and to establish Juneteenth as a paid civic holiday just as was done for Columbus and Pulaski. To every demand, this mayor and this administration has offered a resounding ‘no,’ Geovanis wrote. “It’s striking that so many of those outraged over a meme have little to nothing to say about the nullification of those most responsible for this moment.”
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates also weighed in on the controversy in response to Twitter users who demanded CTU take down the Lightfoot meme.
“The meme is racist. Not the murder. Not the coerced confessions. Not the unjust decades long prison sentences. Not the abuse. Not the brutality. Not the murder. The meme. Got it,” Davis Gates wrote.
…the meme is racist. Not the murder. Not the coerced confessions. Not the unjust decades long prison sentences. Not the abuse. Not the brutality. Not the murder. The meme. Got it. https://t.co/7xNMzHhzSR
— #CTUINC (@stacydavisgates) June 18, 2020
“Miss me with the “racist meme.” Talk about the real issue. The manufacturing of outrage? There’s real real outage abt real racism & injustice,” she added.