I am increasingly alarmed with the pubic expression of bigotry that has permeated the national media in our country. While it is not as prevalent in Oak Park, it is very disturbing that so many institutions and people of good faith are remaining silent. Waves of hatred against African Americans and Latinos, followed by anti-gay rhetoric, and now anti-Arab-American vitriol have reached a fever pitch that cannot help but influence our community. These attitudes take us down the road to the kind of behavior that led to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, to the black lists of Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s, to the violent attacks on civil rights workers during the 1960s.
History teaches us that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. It is past time for good people to step up to the plate and take a stand against hate and bigotry. We are seeing wave after wave of hatred against one group and then another. Much of this is based on fear emanating from ignorance. This is very divisive and counter productive in our pluralistic country, whose national motto, “epluribus unum, means “out of many, one.” We are seeing more and more intolerance as some of our countrymen seek to impose narrow values on the rest of us. What happened to individual liberty, freedom of religion and “liberty and justice for all”? The United States is supposed to be a place where we live and let live, but maintaining that value engenders civic responsibility to vote and to speak up.
It doesn’t take much for us to see that when one group is demonized, and then another, and another, eventually we all get put on “the list” as one of “those people.” Bigotry will never be completely eliminated. I believe that people should be free to hold to their own beliefs. What is most disturbing to me, though, is the behavioral manifestations of that hatred, which seeks to restrict or violate the rights of others and threatens them with violence. The rest of the world must be looking at us and thinking that we are the biggest hypocrites ever, as we abandon the principles upon which our nation was founded.
I never thought that I would see this kind of open hatred in our country in my lifetime. I cannot remain silent. I challenge other like-minded people, organizations and media to have the courage to speak up, as well. We must challenge hate and lies wherever we see them, or we will become the victims as bigotry continues to grow until it is completely out of control.
We must face the hate and educate or we will all pay the price.
Lynn Allen is the administrator of District 97’s Multicultural Education Department, but she says she’s wrote this view as her own personal opinion as an Oak Park resident.