Oak Park has certainly done better than most towns to encourage racial diversity, and to value it as well. However, it is always important for a community to reflect and think critically on how well different populations are integrated into the community, as integration is a two-way process.

It is my hope that the recent article about the black population in Oak Park decreasing will increase dialogue on how the community values diversity, and what diversity really means [Black population in Oak Park drops for the first time in decades, News, Feb. 16].

There are some interesting assumptions made in the article, though, that are somewhat contradictory. The statement is made that “It’s possible Blacks moved to more affordable places.” However, later in the article, it said that “Maybe the prices have come down enough to attract other minorities (Latino and Asian) to come here.”

So affordable housing in other towns pushed blacks out of Oak Park, but affordable housing within Oak Park attracted Latinos and Asians? It is an interesting assumption that affordable housing would attract Asians despite the fact that Asians, as a collective group, have higher median incomes than whites.

The point is that economics are not everything, and we should never assume that they are. Could the decrease in the black population be due to experiences of racism that African-American Oak Parkers have experienced? Could it be that, even though Oak Park has marketed racial and ethnic diversity, it has not affectively looked at cultural diversity, and this is why it has been slow to attract Latinos and Asians? I am not implying that this is the case on any level, but I do think that communities must always engage in critical dialogue and see what steps can be done to become an even more diverse and integrated community.

Dylan Bellisle
Oak Park

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