We need to protect our vulnerable citizens

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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The incident may not make it to the pages of Wednesday Journal, but it angered me so much that I thought I'd comment anyway. This week, an 18-year-old male from Crystal Lake (who has mental disabilities) was driven by a "friend" to an apartment on the 3300 block of West Lexington in Chicago where he was terrorized and brutalized by three other 18-year-olds and a 24-year-old for 4-5 hours. The terror was captured on Facebook Live by Brittany Covington (one of the tormentors). A neighbor's complaints eventually led to the young man's release. If you followed the story, you know the victim is Caucasian and the perpetrators are African-American.

My reaction to the incident was the same as for any vulnerable person or population that gets exploited or victimized: outrage, disgust, and a call for justice if possible. For me, the race involved doesn't matter as much as what actually occurred. Alas, our society is quite racialized so you can't always ignore the obvious. And when incidents are racially motivated, race has to take center stage and be called out for what it is — a tool that can be used for evil, suppression, exclusion, manipulation, exploitation, or social justice. 

I am sure that I have already ruffled some feathers so let me go further. As a community, Oak Park should never be silent when it comes to exploitation, abuse, or neglect of its most vulnerable citizens. This includes the disabled (mental and physical), children, the elderly, the abused (mental and physical), and the economically/socially disadvantaged.

So when we hear of student-teacher sexual relations, allegations of inadequately addressed sexual assault and aggression among teens at OPRF High School, or entrenched academic performance gaps, I would think we'd be just as passionate in calling for justice/corrections as we have when racial insensitivity or victimization occurs (or when a school improvement/pool tax is proposed or Madison Street goes on a road diet for development purposes or District 97 puts two referendums on the ballot or the village has to face its pension deficits).

I hope the young man from Crystal Lake gets the justice and support he needs to heal from the senseless crime carried out against him. I hope Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago) are held accountable for the actions they are accused of perpetrating. Had the races been reversed (or the same), I'd still feel the same.

Ken Woods

Oak Park

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