Electing women of color

Opinion: Editorials

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How many times have we heard it? "Finding African Americans to run in local elections is just about impossible." Repeatedly. How many times have we seen our elected boards with a shortage of women of color? Far too often.

That makes it past time to admit that networks of older white people may not be the most effective recruiters of women and men of color to run for local office. And the basic truth is that the power structure in Oak Park and River Forest, the place where new leaders are most often found and nurtured, is still pretty much a white power structure. Not a moment for either denial or sackcloth and ashes. Just time for a tacit admission that we need, collectively, to do better, to be more diverse and to be open to other recruitment paths.

Voila. Today's Journal reports on the recent creation of Oak Park for Racial Equity, a group with a primary mission of finding women of color to seek local office. As of today, and with time running out for gathering petition signatures for the April elections, this group has found five women ready to step forward and run for village boards in River Forest and Oak Park, the OPRF school board, the District 97 Oak Park elementary school board and the Oak Park library board.

Arti Walker-Peddakotla, founder of the group and a likely candidate for the Oak Park village board, said women of color often don't run because they lack a support group. "We don't have a huge network of people who are influential at a higher level," she told the Journal. 

That's real but apparently surmountable if all of us offer up our support. That's not a guaranteed vote as elections are all about vetting candidates. But it is a declaration that we will have better governance when our elected representatives better reflect our actual diversity.

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Reader Comments

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Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 10th, 2018 6:57 AM

Really, Simpson? Then tell us all why it is that all the indictments, the guilty pleas, the convictions and the growing body of evidence are of and by and targeting Trump's inner circle? You and others are sleep walking through the greatest story of our time, and it ain't "Crooked Hillary," who, you apparently need to be reminded, LOST.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 9th, 2018 7:44 PM

@ Dwyer - I guess you figure Hillary was better? She is the GOLD STANDARD of corruption!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 9th, 2018 5:24 PM

Happy to see you're concerned about the ethics and motivations of those seeking office, Simpson. Where was it in 2016?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 9th, 2018 8:28 AM

Are we sure that those who are recruiting agenda candidates are not setting themselves up to be "King Makers" who will later, want their payback?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 9th, 2018 12:01 AM

What Ramona said.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 8th, 2018 9:06 PM

@ Ramona - Don't forget their willingness to work their butts off, for little recognition.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: December 8th, 2018 8:15 PM

"That makes it past time to admit that networks of older white people may not be the most effective recruiters of women and men of color to run for local office" Why does the author put the onus on older white people to to recruit people of color? Doesn't she/he think people of color have the capacity to do it themselves? How about we stop playing identity politics, take genitalia and race out of equation and just elect people based on their capacity, intellect, moral compass, experience, etc. I know it sounds crazy.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 8th, 2018 5:48 PM

What Neal said.

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 8th, 2018 2:24 PM

I am glad women of color are running for office, but I do not vote based on gender or race. It does not matter to me. What matter is someone's position on the issues. For the village trustee candidate - What is your opinion on the 28 story building, the "road diet", the OPEDC, and giving taxpayer money to "partners"? To the D200's candidate - What is you position on the "Imagine Plan"? To the D97 candidate - Do you think it is ethical to steal $2.5 million from the taxpayer, build the overage into future years, claim the maximum increase each year, and use the money for 13 new full time employees? Like me know your positions, and I will let you know if you have my vote.

Mary Anderson from Oak Park  

Posted: December 8th, 2018 11:48 AM

Dan Moroney: You. Are. Tone. Deaf.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 4th, 2018 4:46 PM

@Dan CONGRATULATIONS! It seems you are building a fair representation of our town without pushing that as an agenda. The talent in our community is unlike any I have seen and the willingness roll up sleeves is marvelous. Those minor discrepancies are probably just the nature of who wants to do what. A gold star on Oak Park's chart!

Dan Moroney  

Posted: December 4th, 2018 2:03 PM

Diversity in representation is a fantastic ideal and there is always room for improvement (Especially on the Board that I serve). At the same time, Oak Park should be encouraged by the diversity currently on display in our elected officials...as we continue to aspire for more diversity. Of the 40 elected officials in Oak Park: 55% male & 45% female. 72.5% white (vs. 68% of population; per US Census/2014 Comprehensive Plan), 15% African American (vs. 22% of population) and 12.5% other race (vs. 10% of population).

Ray Simpson  

Posted: December 4th, 2018 1:49 PM

I thought, in our modern age, we were supposed to elect only the best, most qualified, to run our government. Are we going to make allowances for female, sexual preferences or race? Isn't that sexist, homophobic or racist in it's purest sense? Has it occurred to anyone that a white male might be more effective than a gay, black female with an ax to grind? Just thinking that if we want the best for our community shouldn't we select our best and brightest and get over this equity silliness? Getting even for past wrongs is an even greater wrong.

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