Is this what we’ve become? A finger-pointing, immigrant-blaming nation full of citizens who feel emboldened to spew, share, and create racist, bigoted acts in such a way that even a peacemaker, a changemaker is in danger of falling prey to hate at the first sign of bringing up hot topics, or uncomfortable issues? Has hate and scapegoating becoming commonplace? Is this the face of our country, and our village? No. We are a nation of immigrants, people of many different colors, backgrounds and stories. We are built on change, resistance, rebellion and all the richness that each different group has to offer. This wave of hatred, xenophobia, bigotry, and this free pass to express racism in increasingly dangerous forms must stop. Those who are working toward this goal, calling out racism where it lives, and fighting it at every turn, must be aided, applauded, and assisted, not vilified and punished.

Anthony Clark stepped up to the plate, with the laser-focused goal of dismantling the hate and creating more peace and love and unity, while working to facilitate the empathy, and breaking down the hate that created the egregious act in the first place. So in this village when racism, prejudice, sexism or any other inequities are discovered, what does the community do?

Anthony Clark has been passionately fighting for justice and siding with love and unity in our community in so many ways for years. Sadly, in his latest effort to foster understanding and awareness between a young man and his racist act, and community members, he was silenced and punished. Is this what we do to our powerful African American leaders, mentors and change-makers? In fact, what Anthony was attempting to do, was build bridges of understanding between groups and individuals, as he is an active member of our community and many others.

The unfortunate message sent was that other parties stepped in to reprimand the change-maker, the bridge-builder, who was halted mid-project, as he was just trying to bring that unity at a crucial time, and with the cooperation of all involved.

I want to celebrate the diversity and progressive community that respects and honors all its citizens and their voices. I am deeply saddened to discover that when push comes to shove, many were silenced and vilified, or ignored, while other voices were amplified. Racism exists. It lives all around us. We must name it, be aware of it, change it. The denial or inability to discuss the fact that racist instances occur, or that there are racist concerns in the district or the village are a massive red flag begging the question: “How progressive are we?” 

It’s time to let the change-makers do their work, for we need them so dearly now — in the country and locally here in Oak Park. Anthony, we need you in our community now more than ever. We need the empathy, collaboration, and sense of fairness that are the foundation of Suburban Unity Alliance. We need healing and understanding in this community, but first we need to make sure all the voices can and will always be heard, and will always have a seat at the table. We should all take a long look in the mirror to understand who we’re looking at before moving forward, personally and as a community. But we need real change-makers to move forward. More love, less hate. I stand with Anthony Clark. 

Zerrin Bulut is a resident of Oak Park. 

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