Susan Buchanan

Susan Buchanan, an Oak Park village trustee, says she has received threats to her and her family’s safety following comments she made at an Oct. 7 board meeting attempting to silence white male trustees during a discussion regarding updates to the village’s diversity statement.

Buchanan, in a statement to Wednesday Journal Friday, said, “Both me and my family have received threats on both my village and work accounts. The police departments at my work and in the village are involved.”

She said she and her family would not be staying in their home tonight.

Buchanan lit into Trustees Deno Andrews and Dan Moroney, both white males, telling them to “shut up” after they expressed a desire to clarify a term – “systems of oppression” – used in the long delayed diversity statement revision.

“Why are you arguing what is a system of oppression?” Buchanan asked. “You’ve never experienced one, so shut up!””

She also told Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, a native of Palestine, that his “skin was white enough,” when he tried to intervene.

While many audience members applauded Buchanan for the comments, she has since received vitriolic emails and severe criticism following her comments. Some have even called for Buchanan’s resignation.

Video footage of the meeting has made its way across the internet, even being posted on Infowars, a fringe conspiracy website, whose presence has been banned from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In a written statement to the Journal Friday, Buchanan said she “lost her temper at Monday’s board meeting” and “immediately apologized afterwards” to her fellow board members, the village clerk and the village manager. 

“I will do better going forward,” the statement read. “The diversity statement agenda item was the culmination of months of discussion about the wording of the statement, and my frustration grew out of that.”

Buchanan’s statement ended with her affirming her affection for Oak Park: “I love Oak Park and look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the people of this wonderful community.”

Letter from Oak Park mayor urges unity

Late Friday afternoon, Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb emailed a letter to Wednesday Journal addressing the discussion of the village’s diversity statement and racial equity at the Oct. 7 village board meeting and its fallout.

 

We are including it here in its entirety.

 

Last Monday night the Oak Park Village Board experienced a difficult meeting, much of which centered on a conversation involving racial equity in our village government and the community as a whole.

 

My colleagues and I on the village board — without exception — recognize the urgency of making progress on racial equity in our village. We all share a deep commitment to fighting racism and hate in Oak Park and beyond.

 

However, it’s clear that there are different opinions about the best way to move forward. Some of those differences devolved into harsh language at the board table and that is regrettable. It is also regrettable that some of these exchanges were picked up by regional and national media.

 

I am concerned that some of these media clips create an impression of Oak Park as a divided, intolerant community. That is not who we are. Oak Parkers are welcoming, loving and inclusive — and that is why my wife and I chose to live and raise our family here.

 

Over the past few days, Oak Parkers have asked me numerous times, “Where do we go from here?” Many are worried that the ugly and polarized national political climate has spread to our village.

 

I refuse to let that happen.

 

Instead, we need to move forward on racial equity as well as our other urgent priorities. Oak Park is up to the challenge.

 

Village trustees are bound to have different opinions on a wide variety of issues. That is as it should be. But we cannot express those opinions in a way that devalues, denigrates and discounts the humanity of those with whom we disagree. The fundamental truth is that everyone matters equally.

 

We cannot lose focus on what brought us all to Oak Park in the first place. Diversity of opinion makes us stronger and will bring us closer to the policy goal of racial equity that we all share.

 

Our current village board is capable of great things. And we should not judge any of our public servants on the basis of their worst or best moment in public. An attack on one Oak Parker is an attack on all of us. I support each of my colleagues in village government and have the utmost confidence that this new board will work through its challenges and accomplish great things for our village.

 

From my upbringing, I am only too familiar with the terrible cost of ongoing political and ideological conflict. From that experience, I have learned the value of inclusiveness and peaceful communication. I remain convinced that this kind of communication will bring Oak Park to the destination toward which we all strive — Unity in Diversity.

 

Sincerely,

Anan Abu-Taleb, mayor

Village of Oak Park

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