CHAMPAIGN – The Republican candidate for state Senate in the 52nd District said Wednesday night that black men "find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education."
Al Reynolds, 65, of Danville made the remarks at a candidate forum at the Champaign City Building. The forum was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Champaign County NAACP.
Reynolds' comments came in response to a question about increasing the number of black and Latino students at the University of Illinois.
"I've been in the city and the dichotomy of the women and the men in the minorities, there is a difference in the fact that most minority women, either the single parent or coming from a poor neighborhood, are motivated more so than the minority men," he said. "And it's a pretty good reason. Most of the women who are single parents have to find work to support their family. The minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It's easier.
"We need to provide ways that are more incentive, other than just sports avenues, for the men for the minorities to want to go to college and get an education and better themselves before the women have to support them all."
The audience, which at that time numbered only about 25, seemed stunned.
A few minutes later Reynolds' opponent, state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, addressed his opponents' comments.
"I've been in this community for a long time now. I've been working in this community for a long time and I've worked with a lot of African-American men. They're not pursuing careers in sports. They're not trying to sell drugs. They're trying to support their families. They're trying to be good people," he said.
"I've attended church around here. There are good families around here. There are some obstacles placed in their way and the state needs to tear them down. But I've met a lot of good people in this area and I don't think we should stereotype them all like that."
Frerichs' remarks received sustained applause from the audience, which included a number of African-Americans.
After the forum had ended, Reynolds repeated his comments.
"Look at the number of black men who opt out of getting a job and opt out of higher education. They don't even make it out of high school because the lucrative drug trade is so rampant that it's just easy for them to fall into that. What are the avenues for the black man to get out of the ghetto? He becomes a star athlete or he does drugs. I mean very few men of the black race get out of that ghetto through education. The women do. The women do because, number one, they're forced to because they don't have anybody to take care of them. They do a good job. A lot of the women are very good about getting out and getting an education. The men just have a more ... you know, the lure of high money because it's high money in drugs without having to pay the price of going to school."
Reynolds is the former head of the East Central Illinois Tea Party. He became the Republican nominee by way of a write-in campaign last spring.