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Two young Oak Park teens have been murdered this summer while spending time in the city.

This is different. It has not happened before. And it brings the chaos that exists side-by-side with normal living on the West Side to our doorstep, into our lives and now into our dinner table talk.

The myth of an impermeable bubble is not holding. That's a good thing. The myth that Oak Park and Austin are not closely linked — in ways great and troubling — keeps us from finding commonality and making friendships across the artificial boundary that Austin Boulevard represents.

Alexander Mayo. AJ, he was called. 19. Lived on South Cuyler down near Roosevelt. Graduated from OPRF just a year ago. Murdered at 1:30 in the afternoon in Lawndale. No arrests.

Damani Henard. 14. Moved to Oak Park with his mom and sister not long ago because she wanted off the West Side, wanted her kids at OPRF. Damani would have been picking up his books and trying to figure out the crazy floor plan at OPRF in a couple of weeks. Shot in the head and the back by two men. No arrests. Yep, he was the kid riding his bike down North Avenue in Austin too late at night.

I remember 15 years ago going to court in Maybrook with our son Ben when he was 13 and had been picked up at 1:30 a.m. with two of his pals for curfew. As I remember they were hiding under a truck at Billy's Fruit Market when the cop collared them. He was a screwy kid on a lark. I'm a decent dad. He's not dead and I'm grateful.

A week ago, at a village board meeting Trustee Ray Johnson, responding to these murders, earnestly asked that Oak Park find a way to start a conversation about violence and race and class. President Obama urged the same in the week after the Trayvon Martin verdict.

Talking about race and class and violence is not an easy thing. Presses all our buttons, stokes the fears and biases that we all carry with us. And that's especially true when white and black people gather up for the primary purpose of talking about such tough and complicated and personal issues.

Our high school has done about the best job of plain talk about race in the Courageous Conversations they have facilitated starting with the school board and now continuing with staff and others. That racial equity is one of five key aspects of OPRF's new strategic plan tells us a lot about the school's determination to face up to the complex race and class issues that percolate over on Scoville.

Glenn Brewer is another Oak Park village trustee, and the only one who grew up in Austin. Sat with him for the first time a while back and we talked about his perception of Oak Park in the era when Austin was resegregating and Oak Park was throwing up cul-de-sacs at every intersection with the West Side.

That left an impression on him as a young man. It was a good conversation starter, since we're about the same age and I watched the same divides erected, just from the Oak Park side of the boulevard and with an Oak Park perspective.

A couple of weeks back I was invited to join a panel at Pilgrim Congregational as that church sorted out social issues which are of the strongest concern to their members — particularly the relationship between Oak Park and Austin. After a number of ideas surfaced about ways to connect people in both neighborhoods, a woman in the group made an essential point. "I don't want to do things for people in Austin. I want to do things with people. I want to know people in Austin. I want them to know me."

There are ways to connect. With papers in both Austin and Oak Park, the Journal and Austin Weekly News offer some of those avenues. There are other opportunities, too. But if the necessary conversation is going to happen then the connections need to be made and fostered.

Reader Comments

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Posted: August 2nd, 2013 4:33 PM

Transplant, you are on to something. To help reduce crime, suburban gangsters in OP could perfect their swag by taking lessons from real live gangsters across the border. They could offer up their iphones as payment in exchange.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 3:02 PM

Speaking of teens buying drugs, I'm still waiting for Officer Jacobson to get back to me after a drug deal I watched on Monday at Longfellow Park on the corner of Cuyler and Jackson.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 2:23 PM

Instead of a discussion with the residents of Austin, I propose that we make them an offer. We raise their kids for them and our own teens continue to buy their drugs (while the cops look the other way), and, in exchange, they steal and panhandle in another neighborhood.

Matt Tressman  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 1:31 PM

OP Since you are not Facebook verified, I cannot believe anything that you say. Unless Violet verifies your identity, then you are most likely on a 40 ounce high and just typing nonsense. Why would we sell rib tips in a mattress store. Was Violet serious about stuffing a mattress with meat? I would suggest that we donate a mattress to everyone that lives in Austin and is smart enough to have their Auntie have an apartment with an OP address and send their kids to OPRF. Maybe a voucher too

Native OP'r from Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 1:27 PM

Matt Interesting ideas to say the least. I bet we could get a lot of our stolen bicycles and gutters back if we became friends. I really think most of the panhandlers that I see are from River Forest. What about poor Maywood Austin does not have the market on crime ridden dumps. I think we also adopt Detroit and Newark and Trenton.

Matt Tressman  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 1:16 PM

How about this for an idea - we have the mattress store sell afro braids, 40 ounce beers, rib tips, dew rags, hot links, baseball caps and hoodies. In that way the people from Austin would come over and we could all be friends.

City Planner from Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 12:23 PM

How about Oak Park annexes Austin? Then Oak Park would be a VERY diverse village!

Great divide  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 12:01 PM

Cont... connect with the people everyone is talking about connecting with. This shows the predicament, people want to connect with the "community", but not to put their families in danger while doing so. You WILL put your family in danger if you start hangout out in Austin (not the Galewood section), so do you take that risk? Will you, being middle, or upper middle class, white, be accepted my a poor black community, be involved in their activities? Will you involve them you your activities?

Great divide  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 11:56 AM

cont... white middle class minority in Galewood. If the point is to lessen the feeling of disconnect between the more affluent Oak Parkers and the poor black community across the border, I don't see how mingling like this with people you'd usually mingle with is going to achieve it. Of course I'd understand if one would not want to take their family to say Chicago and Lamarie to hang out due to the possible danger, but going to something like this just seems like a false attempt to really cont..

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 11:54 AM

In 2008, Evan McKenzie (Political Science, University of Illinois) and Jay Ruby (Political Science, Temple University and a former Oak Park resident and a graduate of OPRF) wrote a report titled, RECONSIDERING THE OAK PARK STRATEGY - THE CONUNDRUMS OF INTEGRATION.. It is probably the most comprehensive and objective report on Oak Park racial issues. The report contained recommendation for an Oak Park "plan". An extract of the recomendation is below. The entire report can be found at ----EXTRACT: We suggest that Oak Park's "plan" is in need of a thorough and self-critical examination as a plan and not simply the components. Given the high level of education and citizen involvement, the creation of a Task Force to examine all of Oak Park's policies, procedures, the entire operation of the Community Relations division, and the Village's relation to its partners - Rescorp, the Housing Authority and the Regional Housing Center - should be a task Oak Parkers would welcome. Instead of the random "potshots" that some critics now occasionally take at one particular activity, a systematic look at what each entity does and why and how it fits into the whole would be in order. It is time for Oak Park to explore its commitment to maintaining diversity by dispersing blacks and whites throughout the community to see if it wishes to continue to do so. It is our contention that without these organizations (housing) the community would have an almost all black apartment corridor in the eastern portion of the Village and a scattering of blacks and whites in single family homes and condos. Perhaps that is a future Oak Parkers wish for themselves. While the report was controversial and a plan was never started, it has value to us in 2013.

Great divide  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 11:50 AM

Chris, the event looks good, though I'd question "who" you'd actually be "connecting" with. I checked out the city of Chicago event website, and the photo they have of it looks like the attendees are 95% white, so I'm guessing they're either from the Galewood part of Austin, or some surrounding suburb much like yourself. I suppose when the discussion is about "connecting" with the Austin community, I took that to mean "connecting" with the poor black community, not just the cont...

Chris from OP  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 8:22 AM

Ugh, typo in my last comment, sorry bout that. I meant: google the words "juicebox austin town hall" - - - - supporting family themed events like this is a good idea so our kids are meeting each other.

Chris from OP  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 8:18 AM

(continued) I guess this comment system won't take links. If you google "juicebox austin tall hall" you'll see the Free concert series. Our news source should cover this, few parents in OP probably know about it.

Chris from OP  

Posted: August 2nd, 2013 8:02 AM

I'm in Oak Park and I want to connect. I'm going to this with my family (see link). Can Wednesday Journal do a better job of letting us know about nearby things like this?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 12:36 PM

Oak Parker - I was not patronizing Dan Haley. And I do not favor debate or discussion on the subject of race. Debates that result from fear are usually short-term and ;non-productive. Oak Park Village is segregated whether we like it or not. The segregation is not in housing. It is in civic involvement. Haley letter addressed that. I hope Dan choices to run his letter in a future WJ paper.

Oak Parker  

Posted: August 1st, 2013 11:52 AM

Once again I chuckle at the attempt to solve a lifelong problem with a debate over a comment section. I question the wisdom of blaming the police by Mr. coughlin, I question the the motives of mr. Butch for patting Mr. Haley on the back. I agree with the wisdom of the Great divide. Finally I blame everyone for this problem. You, me and of course the thug who has no self control and little respect for others. Build a wall across Austin instead of a canopy across the I290.


Posted: August 1st, 2013 5:58 AM

For the woman who wants "to do things with the people of Austin" might she consider volunteering with the Cluster Tutoring Program?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 11:55 PM

Dan Haley authored an essay in December 2007 after Barak Obama was elected President of the United States. The essay was titled, We Oak Park Can't Rest on Its Laurel." It warned the village that we no longer could depend on its history of the 1960's and 1970's as the path to race relations in the 21st Century. He cited the fact that it seemed that the only time the entire village came together was during the Independence Day Fireworks and Day in Our Village. My interpretation of his article was that Oak Park had an inter-racial community; not an integrated community. My interpretation could be wrong, but I am not the only person that interpreted Dan's words that way. We cannot help Austin until we understand Oak Park's own race issues. A starting point may be to begin understanding whether Oak Park Diversity is an "Icon" based on our honored past, or a path to common understanding of its how to make diversity proactive in the future. Perhaps a starting point is Dan's 2008 essay. That will help us all understand the challenges we face. I am amazed at the 60 post in one day on Dan's letter. They are a fantastic view of issues that will be faced.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 7:43 PM

The problem of drugs, gangs, and violence is city wide, an unsolved problem of overwhelming proportions. I disagree that Austin residents are passive and unconcerned. Blaming them or the local police dept. is ridiculous. How do we find a solution? Maybe talking to each other isn't such a bad idea after all-it's at least a start.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 7:03 PM

Whatever happened to the group Neighbors Across the Boulevard? I would like to have a way to interact more with my Austin neighbors on a community project instead of "dialoging." The majority of Austin residents are decent folks-just like us... who are far more victimized by crime than Oak Parker's! Does that concern anyone in O.P.? Negative stereotypes of our Austin neighbors is unfair and offensive.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 6:04 PM

It's not up to me to stop "police brutality" is my response to the person who uses the odd tag of "What?? from Oak Park". Follow the news reports detailing the excessive force used by CPD officer John Burge. The city is paying millions in settlements to the men he coerced false confessions from while allowing the real perpetrators of some henious crimes to get away with murder.

What?? from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 5:06 PM

Jim C, stop it with the "police brutality" nonsense.


Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:58 PM

But the police are working very hard, in both OP and Chicago, at issuing tickets!

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:51 PM

How tough is Austin? Many Chicago cops won't even eat there while on duty. Check OP eateries for Chicago police vehicles parked out front (usually illegally), and find the uniforms inside having breakfast, lunch, etc.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:50 PM

I've had my garage broken into, and my car broken into (separate incidents.) But call for more aggressive police protection, and you'll hear that you're trying to create a "bubble."


Posted: July 31st, 2013 4:44 PM

I really can't believe OP Transplant has met people whose view is that he/she should accept being victimized in order to appear progressive. I am a mom of teens who walk around town. I guarantee there is not a single mom who thinks a little crime against pedestrians is the price we have to pay to live here and be viewed as progressive.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 3:24 PM

Real List - What angers me is the attitude that, in order to be viewed as sufficiently progressive, I'm expected to be willing to be victimized from time to time. I'm not allowed to have the same expectations of the residents of Austin that I have of the residents of OP, because the poor Austin residents just don't know any better. We're just not helping them enough. It's up to us to solve their problems, then maybe they'll rob us less. Drives me nuts.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 3:19 PM

I think it's possible to concede that there is incompetence and corruption in police departments, but still ask that laws be enforced. The "no snitch" rule is really just an extension of the indifference that greets black-on-black crime. Too many members of the black community simple expect young black men to commit crimes,

Real List  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 3:18 PM

@OPT-Interesting word...PREY. I think what angers OP'ers more than anything is being viewed as prey...some lower-life form down the food chain to be consumed at-will by whatever predator comes around. In essence, that is what this spillover crime from Austin is. However, I chose not to be prey. If that means less tolerance, that is only because of Austin's (in)action. Tolerance is a 2-way street.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 2:53 PM

That "no snitch" rule that Great Divide" cites also applies to the police departments. There are countless of examples of officers, supervisors and administrators looking the other other or engaging in a cover up regarding the use excessive force and criminal activities perpetrated by law enforcement personnel. Establishing a spirit of mutual trust and respect requires both citizens and police to work together.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:31 PM

Cont... of cultural change that start in the home from parent to child needs to happen and persevered on (probably the most challenging piece of the puzzle). So, this begs the original question as to how "meaningful" and "useful" a public forum between the 2 communities will be, and how "honest" the conversations can get without misguided "political correctness" and agendas getting in the way of talking about realities.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:30 PM

Hard truth: If the residents of Austin wanted to change their community, they'd be changing it now, regardless of our opinion. If they wanted input from OP residents, they'd communicate that with us. I suspect that many Austin residents are happy with our current relationship-the one where they come here to panhandle and steal, knowing that our toxic brew of lackluster police work and white guilt makes it pretty much risk free. Predators have little incentive to negotiate with prey.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:25 PM

cont... only to mention how they were saddened by the amount of people just laying about and wasting their lives away. Us talk about this on the internet, or the village in a public Oak Park forum, will do little to change this, because we will be barking at the choir. The people that need to contemplate this probably won't unless it's coming from a large majority of Austin residents on a constant basis (the sporadic march for peace won't affect much)... And the "boring" daily grind cont...

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:19 PM

cont... "no snitch" policies, addiction, ideological leaders, cultural identities, positive activities for youth etc... And then there has to be short term solutions like a strict court system, laws that make criminals pay for their crimes etc... The government needs to get involved, but can't do it alone, and the residents need to put in the effort for change to happen... Some Austin residents that went off the college came back to the hood for summer with a new perspective on life cont...

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:14 PM

@Sad in OP, It's going to take a multi-pronged initiative over a long time to change the downward spiral of places like Austin. The first step is for everyone, especially ALL residents, to not only acknowledge there is a problem, but where the problem lays. The government also has to be wanting to do something, which under Rahm, it isn't. There's a need to tackle problems like the cultural values and standards of ethics, positive role models, education, poverty, relationships with the police.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:05 PM

cont... often be misguided, and end in disaster. I agree with Fed Up that no one is saying people are concerned about one's concern for safety making them racist... but more often than not people are judged for pointing out the fact that much of the robberies are crimes are committed by people from Austin. It's like you can't talk about it because the majority of criminals coming in happen to be black, and if you say something, people think you're discriminating as oppose to discussing facts.

Sad In Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:01 PM

Unfortunately the solution doesn't lie in dialogue. The war on drugs has to end. Legalize and regulate on the state and federal level and the traffickers and gangs will fade away. Next get rid of the guns. Give the good people who live in Austin a chance. It's tough even for a father to approach a kid who may be carrying a gun. It may take a generation but it is workable.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 12:55 PM

@Word in Edgewise, If you bothered to read my responses you'd see that they were in response to either comments here or in dialog with the article and belief systems presented by people I've met in the village, which runs counter to your mis-charaterization of "monologue-ing". Regarding giving credit to Dan for "caring", you know what they say about "best intentions"... There are plenty of us who "care", but that doesn't mean we all agree on the care is expressed, and expresses of care can cont.

fed up from chicago  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 12:10 PM

@wordinedgewise - Please point out where there was mention that caring for one's safety was being racist. @greatdivide - not saying the victim is the one at fault. Just saying that paying attention and being aware and alert can avoid one being viewed as an easy target. Obviously the party stealing or harming someone is at fault - no doubt about it - but at times paying more attention can help one not become a victim/easy target

Letter to Austin from OP  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 12:03 PM

What kind of neighbor do you want? I assume welcoming, inclusive, etc. But OP has requirements as well. If I'm viewed merely as prey for the bad folks in your neighborhood, how can I be welcoming, inclusive? Their bad deeds reflect on you and impact your experience in OP. So wouldn't you want to do something about it? Empower yourselves? Because if you don't, we will. We can make OP like Beverly. Do you want that? I don't. But make no mistake, the ball is in your court.

Word in Edgewise  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 12:02 PM

I would call it monologue-ing. And I give Dan credit for caring. Just not sure how a few well-meaning Oak Parkers can change the dynamics of a poverty stricken neighborhood, let alone stop those who want to rob and kill..And this whole discussion about whether being concerned about your safety makes you a racist is just silly.

The Brad from OP  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 11:32 AM

Great Divide is pretty much pwning this conversation. Kudos, my friend. Outstanding posts, and I agree with you 100%. Love the post about the hypocrisy of praising the AWN. Haley does come off and quite naive here.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 11:10 AM

@Fed up, I am all for "as neighbors, being involved and supporting the community changes", and I'd welcome realistic suggestions of how people can go about doing that. But Austin also needs to WANT our involvement, and WANTS to change for the better. We are not the ones to decide for them, and no amount of our wants or dialog will do that.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 11:05 AM

Cont... though the Iphone, iPod etc... thing is a little like blaming the victim... sort of like saying; "well it's YOUR fault you got beat up for your iphone, because you were talking on it" etc... you want to be aware, but the focus should be on the criminal and what THEY did... unless the goal is to create a village where everyone should be scared to leave their homes, and it's their fault if there weren't aware enough of the group of thugs heading their way that happened to assault him.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 11:01 AM

@Fed up, People generally understand where the village is, and that showing iPhones and other gadgets in public poses it's risks (apart from a few that lack awareness), but I don't believe the model of a society where we have to hide everyone we have is the one we want to aspire to. Iphones, iPods, kindles etc... after all are valued for their portability and use in public spaces, and become of little pleasure when one can rarely use them in public... but realty it reality. cont...

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:54 AM

cont... everyone wants what our community wants, and it's also presumptuous.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:53 AM

The irony of Dan bragging about the WJ's sister journal, the Austin Weekly News, being an avenue of discourse and exchange between the 2 communities, should not be lost. If one ever even bothers to read the AWN, which I do, one will see that the sole focus of the majority of articles is about what the black community, the culture and everything to do with being black... and has little to nothing about inclusive diversity. I'm not critiquing this agenda, but it's naive to think that cont...

fed up  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:48 AM

@greatdivide - Forget the dialogue. You are right. It is not necessary. Oak Park needs not be involved. Instead let them make the changes from within. However, as neighbors, if Oak Park doesn't take a seat at the table, you might not be ready for what changes or side effects to the change may come. I'm not suggesting that Oak Park is directly involved in changes in the Austin Community, rather that as neighbors, being involved and supporting the community changes might be beneficial.

Fed Up  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:44 AM

@Greatdivide - While this won't curb all of the crime against Oak Park residents being more aware of your surroundings is a great place to start. When you are typing away on your smartphone, changing songs on your iPod, reading your kindle while walking, or just not paying attention you are a sitting duck. Maybe the real issue at hand is people in Oak Park should remove their heads from where the sun doesn't shine and pay attention when they are out in public.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:42 AM

@Fed up, you talk about doing things through the "community leaders, churches, community organizations" etc... but go to Austin, meet some of the community and church leaders etc... and try to talk about this socially engineered exchange of cultures... They are more interested in helping there own people, and some times this even comes in the form of hostility towards whites and anti-social behavior in the name of raising against the "white man's laws".

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:35 AM

cont... is to either use our parks or come trick or treat... It's presumptuous to think that they want to build a relationship with Oak Park to help Oak Park be less or a target of crime, and to help residents feel better about their need to include everyone, plus people that may not want to be included.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:35 AM

fed up - Are you suggesting that if the good people of Oak Park go into Austin and tell people there how they should change to suit us better, they might not do it? The "white man's burden" grows heavier still.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:33 AM

@Fed up, SO WHAT is the crimes in Oak Park are not "unique"? I don't think anyone cares it they are "unique" or not... they care that it's happening, and they want it to stop happening. The reasons for why it happens is obvious, but it's stuff like that that needs to be dealt with before any real progress can be made. Plus, who says the Austin community even WANTS to have a dialogue with us about our relationship? The only time I see most people from Austin crossing the "border" cont...

fed up  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:29 AM

@neighbor - I agree with your point of business development, however, I am not entirely sure that state legislation would be very beneficial. It is my belief that in order for there to be sustainable change within communities, it should come from within. Whether done by community leaders, churches, community organizations, etc, it has to come from the community NOT from outside. As their neighbors, Oak Park should take an interest in this - NOT taking the drivers seat on anything

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:26 AM

More. I used to do so in the past before some of these businesses closed and/or the crime rate increased.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:26 AM

Cont... It is impossible to "find common ground" before addressing these very real and very deep issues that divide us. There is now way these very different communities can honestly and realistically even begin to address a relationship without dealing with the difficult realities first.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:25 AM

The Oak Park model: Person A (white) tells person B (white) what person B should do to help person C (black). Person A then considers himself finished, having made his contribution to the cause. And yet, somehow, nothing ever seems to change.

Neighbor from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:22 AM

I have lived in east Oak Park for over 20 years and have had many positive experiences with our Austin neighbors. However, I learned that not everyone in Austin is necessarily wants to be friends with (white) Oak Parkers. The idea of improving the crime situation by "opening communication " and having dialog is an embarrassingly naive white liberal idea. I think it's more realistic to ask state reps and congressman to focus more on crime issues as well as business development.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:22 AM

@Fed up, the tone and focus of people's comments here seem more a reaction to the blind cum-bye-ya lets all hold hands na%uFFFDvety that's displayed in the article, without truly addressing deep issue that actually divide us. Such generalizations and simplify and white wash other communities and cultures are typical of white liberals that talk just to make themselves feel better about their privilege... and this is coming from a "white liberal" who actually works in these communities.

fed up  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:18 AM

@greatdivide let me copy and paste from my previous post, " I am not suggesting you put yourself in danger."

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:14 AM

@Fed Up, should I then spend more time in these areas, despite the fact that I've been racially unwelcome by many there and threatened? Would putting myself in harms way be enough stepping out of my "comfort zone" enough for you to make me more inclusive (despite the fact that I already spend time there for work)? What about the residents that leave Austin for college and don't want to return for fear of their lives? Are they "hypocrites" too for not wanting to return to a war zone?

Fed Up  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:13 AM

In addition, to think that the Oak Park problem of being mugged and having your bike stole by kids from the west side is unique, think again. Any time there is an affluent community next to one with poverty there is this tension, and targeting of the affluent community members(arguably because they are easy targets that are too focused on their iPhone/blackberry/false sense of security) will happen.

Fed Up   

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:10 AM

@uncommonsense - my point is not only about the caucasian community in oak park - its about all of oak park @greatdivide - I am not suggesting you put yourself in danger. Rather, I am saying that its disappointing that the consensus here seems to be to emphasize the differences between the two rather than work with both communities to find a common ground, to see where we can both work together and take our communities back

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:09 AM

Another thing. I work from time to time in Austin, and some of the south Chicago communities, and I can tell you that the only time I experience hostility towards myself because of my color is in these hoods, and it happens regularly. I'm not saying that everyone there is like this, I know good folk there too, but I've been called every derogatory white name in the book to my face by groups of people, and have been treated on occasion too because of my color. Cont...

Tough issues  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:07 AM

I agree with Brittney, the issues run deep and it is economics that divide us. Many affluent OP women I meet are focused on self improvement and fun: working out, healthy eating, followed by cocktail hour. They allot X hours to a charity. They set up play dates and watch soccer games. They post slogans on Facebook about surrounding yourself with people who uplift you. I do not think you can expect the average mom here to dialogue with someone who is struggling to make ends meet.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 10:03 AM

@Fed Up, would you feel that Oak Parkers would be less "hypocritical" if they hung out more in Austin? Come on, that's just stupid. From what I've noticed, people here hare nothing against interacting with poor people, that have a fear of getting robbed, assaulted and shot... That probability is greatly increased once you cross the border into Austin. It's not about not being "welcoming", it's about survival... heck, even people IN Austin will tell you that, so get off your high horse.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 9:33 AM

Dirty litle secret is middle and upper class black folks don't want anything to do with lower class black folks either. Many have no problem trying to reach back to help, but don't get it twisted. Classism in the black community is real too. The reality is you can't help everyone and some people don't want to be helped. What is sad though is that the black lower class actually used to have some pride regardless of the lack of resources.

Fed Up from Chicago  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 9:19 AM

These comments embody the hypocrisy that is OAK PARK. No sense in living in a "diverse", "welcoming", and "open" community if you hold these ideas. Oak Park likes the illusion of these things. Barely anyone actually steps out of their comfort zone, they only associate with people like them. This isn't real diversity. Sure there aren't surface commonalities with Austin, that is the point of dialogue - to find what we share in common.

Brittney Campbell from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 9:01 AM

I am an African American and have lived in Oak Park for 34 years. I have always taught my children not to go east of Austin. I now tell my grandchildren not to go east of Austin. Facts are facts. It's not safe. The problems go very deep and will not be fixed by Oak Parker's trying to understand them. It will not change anything. There is a divide, and its a class issue, not a racial issue.

The Brad from OP  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 9:00 AM

Seriously, Dan? Billy's Fruit Market was at 400 Madison in Oak Park. This kid was riding his bike from Pulaski down North Avenue, which looks like a Beirut warzone. You know, as far down as the damn Menard's. Come On.


Posted: July 31st, 2013 6:55 AM

Race does not divide Oak Park and Austin, economics and crime does. When violence shows up on your doorstep, it is not time to open your door and talk. It is time to protect the community we have from violence and crime. If you want to help then demand more from the congressmen and state reps that we share with this area. They have the means to initiate change and they haven't.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 2:54 AM

Speedway, maybe the real question is; are the commonalities we share enough to overcome the vast differences of culture, economics, education, safety/crime, levels of institutional equality etc...?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 2:14 AM

There are many differences that OPer's have from Austinites. Those differences will keep these communities apart. It is what we share that will bring the two together. Search out what we share as a start for communication.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 2:11 AM

are going to volunteer to go in, hangout, and pretend that there is some kind of mutual ground that defies the vast cultural and social differences that divides these communities? What about the young boys, teens and men that come over here to rob and assault Oak Parkers because we're seen as easy prey? There ARE borders, and it is NOT a "myth". Let's not pretend that these serious social problems do not divide us, because they do.

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 2:04 AM

residents into their homes for new years dinner? What about the dysfunctional, criminal or snobby members of each family... are they invited too? Would Oak Parkers be willing to risk possibly catching a bullet for this community building exercise? I read interviews recently of Austin teens in college, and how they didn't want to come home for the summer due to the possibility of gun violence... actual residents that realized how messed up their community is, and now Oak Parkers cont...

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:47 AM

Lets not pretend that we are equal and all we need to do is hang out and talk. Oak Park is a somewhat safe area (relatively speaking) with affluence, some racial, economic, cultural and sexual diversity. Austin is a largely single race area with a serious amount of social problems including gangs, drugs, murders, shootings etc... Are the majority of Austin residents going to accept affluent Oak Parkers into their hood for coffee now? Are Oak Parkers going to invite poor Austin cont...

Great divide  

Posted: July 31st, 2013 1:32 AM

Dan, your son hiding out at Billy's Fruit Market at 1:30 a.m. is hardly like going to Austin at that time. One can very realistically cause you your life, while the other can realistically get you robbed and beat up at worse. Now, before everyone gets into their "we are the world", "color-blind" moods, lets not forget that there are real divides that divide whites and blacks, rich and poor, that can't be solved by just hanging out together and chatting. Cont...

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