Matt Baron, a member of the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School, sent a letter of apology to an Oak Park woman deeply offended by the contents of a letter to the editor he had sent to Wednesday Journal. It was published by the newspaper in its issue of Nov. 25.
That letter has since been removed from the Journal’s website, and the paper’s opinion editor has acknowledged it should not have been printed and offered an apology.
In submitting his apology letter to the Journal, Baron said he sent the letter to the woman referenced in the original letter on Dec. 6. He said that on Dec. 8 the woman said he should also send the letter to Wednesday Journal.
This is Baron’s explanation of the origin of the letter of apology and the letter itself.
A Letter of Apology
On November 25th, the Wednesday Journal published a letter that I wrote in response to a fellow Oak Parker’s Facebook comment labeling an Oak Park public official a white supremacist.
What follows is a correspondence, a letter of apology, that I wrote and sent, via e-mail, on the afternoon of Sunday, December 6th to that fellow Oak Parker. In her response to me on the evening of Tuesday, December 8th, she noted that I should send this letter of apology to the Wednesday Journal.
Out of respect for her wishes, I am doing so. Below is my letter of apology:
Dear Ms. (NAME REDACTED),
I hope this correspondence finds you and your family doing well. We barely know each other; we met one time briefly during a festival in Downtown Oak Park. I wish the best for you and your family, and for your larger community of friends.
When I saw your Facebook comment two weeks ago, it was the latest in a series of comments online, and in other spaces, that Oak Park residents have made, and which have been distressing to me.
In response, my letter used language and imagery that, I have come to learn, may be retraumatizing to you. I did not know your background, or those elements of your personal history that others have shared in the days since my letter was published. I am sorry for all the horrors that you have experienced.
As you know, other than using a pronoun, in my letter I make no reference to you or your background. My focus was to urge one another to hold each other to higher standards of communication, especially when we have significantly different perspectives on any number of issues.
For purposes of exhorting my neighbors and fellow Oak Parkers to do better, I see now that the analogy that I used was far too intense. My words were needlessly over-the-top as I sought to stir people in this community to push back on unfair character attacks.
While it was not my intention to create any divisiveness in the community or pain for you, that has become the impact. And now, as input from a variety of people has raised my awareness of the role that I bear in this matter, I must take responsibility.
I am deeply sorry for any pain that my words caused you, your loved ones, or anyone else.