Monday night, the Village Board of Trustees ripped away the ability of people of color in our community to feel human. They did so by not moving to vote for the second version of the Community Relations Commission’s “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statement. Three trustees drafted their own version of a statement and added it to the agenda last night, several hours before the board meeting. This process is reminiscent of the Albion vote of several years ago with background conversations that the community was not privy to until this new version of the statement appeared on the agenda in the late afternoon.
I know I’ve only just joined the board, and may not know all the processes and procedures involved in bringing things to the board table. But I do know this — the work the CRC did was work that was requested by the village board at the May 6 board meeting. The CRC has worked tirelessly for months, led robust community conversations, and brought a revised statement to the board last night.
The board wants a consensus vote on this statement. It is my understanding that when the village passed the Fair Housing Ordinance in May 1968, the board wasn’t unified and the ordinance passed with a 5-2 vote. This is the same ordinance that we now love to point to as a North Star to show people that Oak Park values diversity and inclusion. Consensus isn’t required when equity is at stake. Comfortability isn’t required when equity is at stake. A simple recognition of the humanity of people of color is all that is required in this situation. A recognition that even though specific individuals may not understand the systems of oppression that exist, there is still a need to break down those systems and create equal chances for all people in Oak Park.
To my fellow trustees, you don’t need to feel comfortable with this statement to vote on it. You need to hear the pain of people of color in our community and vote. Feel the pain our children experience every day at our schools and vote. Feel that pain, and let it move you to do the right and brave thing — even when it is difficult — especially when it is difficult, and vote on the CRC’s new version of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement. Be brave and recognize the humanity of people of color in our diverse community.
See Ken Trainor’s column on the Diversity Statement, page 34.