(Photo by Yen-Pu Chen)

Oak Park prides itself as a community that values diversity and equity, but my experience has concluded otherwise, at least from my interactions with individuals of power within various village administrations. In light of the recent racially-motivated Atlanta shooting that killed six Asians, I thought it’s now or never for me, an Asian man, to speak out.

One case concerns discriminatory treatments by the Oak Park Police Department. In handling a dispute between myself and a white person, a white officer first dismissed my complaint and took no action. Later, when the opposing party raised the same dispute, this officer interrogated, harassed, berated, intimidated and threatened me. Clearly he handled the case with double standards and took vastly different actions.

When I attempted to file a complaint against that officer at OPPD, a white sergeant made his own assumption that I was going to accuse his comrade of being a “racist,” and deployed every possible tactic trying to delegitimize my claim. When I filed a complaint with the village’s Citizen Police Oversight Committee, CPOC and Human Resources have been stalling my case over eight months. Eight. Months. Now they are radio silent.

Oak Park schools don’t make things easy for me either. Last October, I received an email from OPRF advising incoming student parents to contact a Division Head for questions, so I did. The Division Head simply will not respond to me, after four attempts between myself, even with another teacher who tried to help me connect, over five months.

I can’t fathom why a parent who is involved in his daughter’s education does not warrant a reply from the Division Head, a role that is particularly supposed to demonstrate leadership in diversity and cultural inclusion. The only possibilities I could image are perhaps that my surname revealed I am an Asian person; my first name is a non-Christian/non-Biblical name; or that I inquired about the Chinese language program.

When I brought my concerns to the attention of the board and leadership at OPRF where “racial equity” is highlighted in its strategic plan, none of the dozen non-Asian recipients even bothered to respond to me to explain, or rebut my concerns if they didn’t agree with the racial conclusion I had drawn. This leads me to believe that they don’t take discriminatory practices toward Asians seriously and are taking a stance to support the Division Head’s biased attitude. Well, you know what they say: Asians are the “Model Minority.” We don’t make a fuss.

My experiences have pretty much summed up where Oak Park administrations stand in terms of treating Asians as an equal ethnicity. Now is the time to change that.

Yen-Pu Chen, Oak Park

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