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by Deborah Caldwell
Rahm Emanuel is best known for being the hard nosed, highly disruptive and combative, Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. But Ezekiel Emanuel, biochemist brother of Rahm, writes in his memoir that Rahm and his brother Ari were sometimes mistaken for African-American and harassed by racists:
Ezekiel describes incidents that might be called child neglect today. When Rahm was a baby, their mother left him momentarily in the care of two-year-old Ezekiel and a five-year-old cousin before leaving the room. When the boys were children, she sent them off alone to spend summer days on Chicago’s Foster Avenue Beach, which they reached through a tunnel beneath Lake Shore Drive. After a few days in the sun Ari and Rahm could pass for African-Americans, which led to the occasional dustup on a beach that was segregated in custom and practice. “Certain people—mostly white males between the ages of 10 and 15—made it their business to enforce the unwritten whites-only rule,” Ezekiel writes. “When they called my brothers n*ggers and tried to bully us off the beach, we—naturally—refused to move. Instead, one of us would answer, ‘You can’t make me leave.’” If shouting didn’t work, the Emanuel boys had no qualms about throwing punches. “We were city kids, not anti-war activists.”
The Emanuel brothers – Rahm, Ezekiel, and Ari – are all successful men who come from a successful family. They grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood with a doctor for a father. They may’ve gotten nice tans, but they didn’t live the lives or experience the prejudices that many African-Americans experienced during that period.