It was deeply dismaying to see the degeneration of the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 7. That’s the one in which Trustee Susan Buchanan told other (white male) trustees to “shut up” and “stop it,” among other offensive remarks, as they tried to speak on revisions to the Village Diversity Statement.
This was no momentary outburst, but a sustained table-pounding, finger-pointing diatribe that occupied the better part of four minutes. The irony and hypocrisy are thick; the topic was the diversity statement — wherein the board affirms its commitment to, um, a variety of viewpoints, among other lofty aspirations.
To place Trustee Buchanan’s misbehavior in broader context: in over six years of serving on local government boards, I have never witnessed anything remotely resembling such a deplorable scene. Further, in my 20 years as a journalist covering hundreds of local government meetings — including some that were wildly dysfunctional — the only close analogy would be the three-ring circus that was the Town of Cicero’s public proceedings. And even by that measure, Buchanan’s diatribe established a new low for outrageous, disrespectful conduct.
Setting aside her troubling behavior for a moment, consider the utter lack of logic that Buchanan exhibited in trying to justify her bullying. In her view, white men (and perhaps women?), should be constrained from voicing their perspectives on issues that, presumably, have not personally harmed them in their lives.
I, for one, reject the belief that the village board should apply such a foolish, superficial, prejudiced standard to determine if he or she is “qualified” to speak on a topic.
Trustee Buchanan’s cynical, repugnant tactic could have come right out of the Trumpian playbook: seize on differences in gender, race, and any other characteristics as a cudgel to silence and diminish others and their points of view.
In short, it was oppressive.