Although Emanuel's worst sin was the destructive privatization of services he foisted as mayor upon the residents of Chicago, his nomination was controversial primarily for the cover-up of the murder of city resident Laquan MacDonald by a police officer, who was later convicted of second-degree murder. The Chicago Tribune reminds us
In November 2015, a Cook County judge ordered the mayor to release the graphic police dashcam footage, which showed Van Dyke shooting McDonald in the middle of a Southwest Side street as the Black teen walked away while holding a small folding knife. On the same day Emanuel made the video public, then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez charged Van Dyke with murder, and it soon was revealed that several officers’ accounts of the shooting in police reports varied dramatically from the video.
Those reports and the delay in the murder charge, combined with the fact that Emanuel’s administration and aldermen paid the settlement to the McDonald family before a lawsuit was even filed, led to accusations of a City Hall cover-up, calls for Emanuel’s resignation and weeks of street protests during which the chant of “16 shots and a cover-up” was born.
Yet, the death of one young black man, as tragic and appalling as it was, is not as significant as the symbolism conveyed inherent in appointment of the former mayor.
When Biden and the Democrats confirmed an ambassadorship for Rahm Emanuel in the middle of the night right before a weekend. pic.twitter.com/DLYfdUAyzm— Gary Alexander (@grylxndr) December 18, 2021
The idea for several prominent Democrats on June 8, 2020 to kneel while adorned with kente cloth in a show- of solidarity, of cultural affinity, or just plain "show"-
came from the Congressional Black Caucus, according to its leader, Karen Bass. Members of the C.B.C. wore stoles in silent disapproval of Trump at his State of the Union address in 2018. “The significance of the kente cloth is our African heritage, and for those of you without that heritage who are acting in solidarity,” Bass said on Monday. What was projected was limp domestic diplomacy, akin to historical images of white political leaders preening in the exotic “garb” of people living in countries that they are exploiting. Inadvertently, the cloth emphasized the sense that black Americans are foreigners in their own land.
At that time, the Congressional Black Caucus was joined by a few Republicans, the vast preponderance of the mainstream media, and virtually every Democrat in the land in promoting the "black lives matter" movement and, with it, needed police reform and if necessary, unneeded police reform. Democrats marched in the streets, preened on the floor of the Capitol by request of the CBC, and flooded MSNBC and CNN with their expressions of support for the movement.
Alas, those days are past. When the President announced his choice of Emanuel, "Squad" members, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Cori Bush, and Rashida Tlaib blasted the nomination. Opposing it in the Foreign Relations Committee (as he did on the floor), the great senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, asserted “Black Lives Matter. Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make.”
Efforts to reform police over the past eighteen months have floundered in several states, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has died, a megalomaniacal supporter of stop-and-frisk was elected mayor of the largest city in the nation, and Rahm Emanuel was approved (with the help of Republicans) for a plum ambassadorship.
When Rahm Emanuel was tapped for the post in Tokyo, Representative Tlaib tweeted in part "if you believe Black lives indeed matter, then the Senate must reject his appointment immediately." The Senate did not do so and it appears that nineteen months after Derek Chauvin acted in Minneapolis, Tlaib has been proven disturbingly correct.