How many times have we heard it? “Finding African Americans to run in local elections is just about impossible.” Repeatedly. How many times have we seen our elected boards with a shortage of women of color? Far too often.
That makes it past time to admit that networks of older white people may not be the most effective recruiters of women and men of color to run for local office. And the basic truth is that the power structure in Oak Park and River Forest, the place where new leaders are most often found and nurtured, is still pretty much a white power structure. Not a moment for either denial or sackcloth and ashes. Just time for a tacit admission that we need, collectively, to do better, to be more diverse and to be open to other recruitment paths.
Voila. Today’s Journal reports on the recent creation of Oak Park for Racial Equity, a group with a primary mission of finding women of color to seek local office. As of today, and with time running out for gathering petition signatures for the April elections, this group has found five women ready to step forward and run for village boards in River Forest and Oak Park, the OPRF school board, the District 97 Oak Park elementary school board and the Oak Park library board.
Arti Walker-Peddakotla, founder of the group and a likely candidate for the Oak Park village board, said women of color often don’t run because they lack a support group. “We don’t have a huge network of people who are influential at a higher level,” she told the Journal.
That’s real but apparently surmountable if all of us offer up our support. That’s not a guaranteed vote as elections are all about vetting candidates. But it is a declaration that we will have better governance when our elected representatives better reflect our actual diversity.