As more time passes without the Oak Park Village board passing the updated Diversity Statement, the more petty and absurd those in opposition to it appear to be. I have to wonder what will be the next excuse for not passing it.

To those who can’t get their minds around the meanings of certain words, the dictionary still exists, you know. Or you can ask someone with a modern vocabulary. 

What was the point of running a campaign proclaiming to support “equity,” then not supporting a statement that makes a case for equity?

I have to wonder, has the news reached you about people arbitrarily calling the police when a black person does something as ordinary as mow the lawn, enter their own home? Do you listen to Oak Parkers outside of your own comfortable circle? Do you talk to them enough to know about their lived experiences? Is “diversity” more than a word to use among select company? 

The stall on the statement is becoming almost farcical. And it’s especially disappointing for anyone who feels this village fails to live up to its reputation as a liberal community. Which happens often. Oak Park has many fine attributes for sure. It’s also a perplexing place.

Let me make one observation. Oak Park is home to many houses of worship, where people go, usually once a week, to proclaim their faith and commitment to what most religions are based on: compassion. From what I understand, compassion is something people of faith practice, not promise, to do.

So where is the compassion for those who experience oppression (past and present)? Racism? Prejudgment? Bias? Indifference? Sexism? Unwarranted suspicion? How can you acknowledge that these attitudes and corresponding actions exist, then fail to respect those who’ve experienced them? That perplexes me, too.

We are all Oak Park residents for a diverse number of reasons. I doubt many consider the fact of whether the village has a diversity statement as their most compelling reason for living here. But it does matter that in the last half-century, Oak Park decided one was worth having. And for all the subsequent years, each new village board affirmed the statement.

Yes, times have changed. Yet some attitudes that we thought had evolved haven’t. And that makes the diversity statement still worth having.

The reality is that it’s a statement, not a policy. Someone made that point during a village board meeting. The statement merely verbalizes in a public document some principles that many believed Oak Park largely embraces. Does it? Doesn’t it?

So many questions to ask ourselves. The answers reveal who we really are.

Cassandra West is an Oak Park resident who runs a communications and digital marketing firm called New Media Access.

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