Kudos to village trustees Chibuike Enyia and Susan Buchanan for convening the recent anti-hate gathering at Scoville Park on Dec. 21, 2022. This is the type of leadership we need from our elected officials.

This event provided, and continues to stimulate, opportunity for honest reflection, communication and action regarding the ongoing realities of daily life in Oak Park experienced by any of us who are “othered.” Racism, homophobia and antisemitism impact our local communities, inhibit our healthy growth, and pollute our inclusivity.

“Othering” is an empathy issue. When we remove another person’s humanity or an entire group of people’s humanity, we allow for unimaginable horrors to occur. Treating other human beings as mere numbers affects the culture of our community.

Let’s never forget the horrible violence of 11 Black people shot and killed in a Buffalo, New York supermarket or 49 people shot and killed in an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub, or 11 Jewish people shot and killed in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synagogue or 22 Hispanic people shot and killed in an El Paso, Texas Walmart.

Trustees Buchanan and Enyia are concerned with the culture of our community, not just with our town’s balanced budget. That’s a good thing. But it is timely that we also include the intersection of ageism in this important learning process. Ageism is so deep and pervasive we are not yet in the habit of calling it out. The recent anti-hate event was a terrific opportunity to spotlight the intersectionality of all prejudice, including ableism, sexism and transphobia.

Ageism, both systemic and internalized, is a form of discrimination motivated by unconscious bias or hate, and can cause harm to individuals and to community as a whole. Since the year 1900 we’ve added more longevity to our species than all of preceding history. Today for the first time, there are more people alive in the world over 65 than under 15.

Violence is done to our older people who lose their jobs because of their age, or who are misdiagnosed and mistreated in our health-care system because of their age, or who lack adequate housing because of their age, or who are abused in nursing homes because of their age or who become downright invisible because of their age. This is an important part of the anti-hate consciousness to bring to the surface. Let’s include ageism in our diversity, equity and inclusion conversation and actions.

In 2023, out of concern for the culture of our community, let’s follow our trustees’ lead and recognize and challenge ageism in order to create a more equitable and inclusive society for people of all ages.

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