The recent attack on Beye School and responses to its programs promoting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) awareness naturally lead one to consider the issues of tolerance and values in Oak Park. I know that my family moved to Oak Park specifically because we were seeking out a community that was multicultural, tolerant and inclusive in nature. It didn’t hurt that I also got a job here running an institution, the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, that has a mission to promote these values, as well. And, as I hear both personally and professionally, Oak Park’s diversity and inclusiveness are important components in the village’s desirability in the Chicago region.

Moreover, I think it is important to state unequivocally that, when we speak of tolerance and inclusion, we are not speaking of an impotent policy that considers all viewpoints to be equal. The tolerance and inclusion that provide the foundation of contemporary Oak Park are rooted in justice and fairness. Thus, it is incorrect to state that Oak Park fails in its tests of tolerance and inclusion when the vast majority of folks in our community discount the views of those, such as the Illinois Family Institute, wishing to deny justice and fairness in our community. Rather, it is a validation of our commitment to equality that we disapprove of attempts at dividing, demonizing and scapegoating. By now, it should be commonly understood that homophobia, racism, misogyny and any other hate-inspired ideologies are unwelcome in Oak Park.

This is not to say that Oak Parkers are all the same or that we are all far-left liberals. And certainly it is also not the tired old line that, if you’re not a liberal, you should live somewhere else. Indeed, the values we cherish in our village – rooted in human and civil rights – are historically nonpartisan and distinctly American. I’m proud to live among and work with Oak Parkers of all political parties who are committed to our core values. I’m also proud that we stand together at times like these to value justice and denounce hatred.

Rob Breymaier,
Oak Park Regional Housing Center
executive director

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