Stable diversity doesn't happen by magic

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I appreciate John Hubbuch's recurring pieces reminding us that our successful past efforts to promote diversity are not a guarantee of success in the future. As he explains [A little perspective goes a long, long way, Viewpoints, May 11], the reason we haven't suffered from segregation is because we have institutions and policies in place to foster integration. We still need those institutions and policies.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for (though also disheartened about) the letter from Eireann Dolan [It's not easy being young and black in OP, Viewpoints, May 4] and her willingness to describe her harassment from fellow Oak Parkers. In both cases, we are reminded that we still have work to do in achieving meaningful and lasting racial diversity in Oak Park.

As we aspire to achieve an open and inclusive community, we must combat the forces that divide us. We must also ensure that the wonderful opportunities in Oak Park are available and of benefit to everyone.

Recently, I was quoted in The American Prospect regarding diversity and integration. I said, "Oak Park is not perfect, but we're much better than everywhere else." I stand by that statement. This is a community where many of us truly value our diversity. But it is also a community where we must continue to give meaning to that value and aspire for greater inclusion and interaction.

Simply put, our integration doesn't happen magically or without effort. It requires policies and day-to-day efforts to sustain and improve an integrated community. It's even harder when that community is situated in a region defined by hyper-segregation. This will remain the case for as long as Oak Park remains unique.

The Housing Center will continue to play its role by attracting a diverse demand for housing in Oak Park. We will continue to encourage affirmative moves as well. We know that integrated neighborhoods are the foundation of integrated schools and social networks.

The Housing Center's mission is to achieve meaningful and lasting racial diversity. Many of you reading this moved here because you wanted to live in a diverse community. We'll be hosting a forum at 7 p.m. on June 8. A diverse panel will join us with their thoughts. We'll discuss how we can ensure that Oak Park's future will continue to be diverse. We'll also ask how our community can continue to improve as a place of opportunity for everyone who lives here.

I hope you'll join us for the forum. We need you to join us in championing the values that brought you here, so Oak Park will continue to reflect those values for future generations.

Rob Breymaier
Executive director, Oak Park Regional Housing Center

Reader Comments

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Teresa Powell  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 4:32 PM

Oak Park as a diverse community didn't just "happen" as some comments below assume. Many new residents are unaware of the extraordinary efforts of good people of diverse backgrounds who came here believing that we could all live together and affirmatively direct people to live in mixed neighborhoods. We were a model for others in this area (Exchange Congress of '70s and '80s) and there is discussion of celebrating this heritage on our 110th Village anniversary next year.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 25th, 2011 12:38 AM

Worthwhile idea -- I wish I could attend but I will be in Arizona all June. Hopefully, VOP will pick up the forum.

OP Guy  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 10:59 PM

When I hear people talk about racial diversity in Chicago, most of the time they are talking about a mix of black and white people, and sometimes Hispanic people. That's not my idea racial diversity... there are MANY more ethic groups out there and I'd like to see actual racial diversity that includes a much wider spectrum. What about Chinese, Thais, Indonesians, Indians, Afghans, Iranians, Australians etc... You know, ACTUAL "DIVERSITY".

Leslie B. from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 10:40 AM

and I can understand how some people might resent those who get "extra help" in moving to the village when they had to scrimp, scrape, and exhaust their savings to buy property here. I know I did, and I don't appreciate the idea that some people have that I didn't scrimp, scrape, and sacrifice to move here, because I'm a person of color, and many other people of color have had assistance in moving to the village. Crime & economy in the village are more important issues than forced diversity.

Leslie B. from Oak Park  

Posted: May 20th, 2011 10:31 AM

I think the village should stop trying so hard to PURPOSELY and actively promote diversity. Perhaps this is what turns many people off--and makes people assume that most, if not all, people of color in the village are there due to some type of "program" or "government intervention". Let the market and personal preferences guide who lives in the village, and maybe people will not be so quick to judge their neighbors. People here pay high taxes and some have spent a lot of money on their homes..

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