A bogged-down statement makes a statement

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter


One View

As more time passes without the Oak Park Village board passing the updated Diversity Statement, the more petty and absurd those in opposition to it appear to be. I have to wonder what will be the next excuse for not passing it.

To those who can't get their minds around the meanings of certain words, the dictionary still exists, you know. Or you can ask someone with a modern vocabulary. 

What was the point of running a campaign proclaiming to support "equity," then not supporting a statement that makes a case for equity?

I have to wonder, has the news reached you about people arbitrarily calling the police when a black person does something as ordinary as mow the lawn, enter their own home? Do you listen to Oak Parkers outside of your own comfortable circle? Do you talk to them enough to know about their lived experiences? Is "diversity" more than a word to use among select company? 

The stall on the statement is becoming almost farcical. And it's especially disappointing for anyone who feels this village fails to live up to its reputation as a liberal community. Which happens often. Oak Park has many fine attributes for sure. It's also a perplexing place.

Let me make one observation. Oak Park is home to many houses of worship, where people go, usually once a week, to proclaim their faith and commitment to what most religions are based on: compassion. From what I understand, compassion is something people of faith practice, not promise, to do.

So where is the compassion for those who experience oppression (past and present)? Racism? Prejudgment? Bias? Indifference? Sexism? Unwarranted suspicion? How can you acknowledge that these attitudes and corresponding actions exist, then fail to respect those who've experienced them? That perplexes me, too.

We are all Oak Park residents for a diverse number of reasons. I doubt many consider the fact of whether the village has a diversity statement as their most compelling reason for living here. But it does matter that in the last half-century, Oak Park decided one was worth having. And for all the subsequent years, each new village board affirmed the statement.

Yes, times have changed. Yet some attitudes that we thought had evolved haven't. And that makes the diversity statement still worth having.

The reality is that it's a statement, not a policy. Someone made that point during a village board meeting. The statement merely verbalizes in a public document some principles that many believed Oak Park largely embraces. Does it? Doesn't it?

So many questions to ask ourselves. The answers reveal who we really are.

Cassandra West is an Oak Park resident who runs a communications and digital marketing firm called New Media Access.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

8 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 19th, 2019 4:04 PM

Here is some of the SJW playbook: 1. They believe they have the right to not be offended. Has given rise to "safe space". Truth is secondary. 2. They have lowered the bar of what it means to be a "racist". In fact, it's so low, as long as you are white, regardless of your individual actions, you are a racist. 3. This leads them into "collective guilt". They blame an entire group for the actions of a few. 4. Privilege If one now grows up in a home with 2 parents and attends college, which was once normal, that is now considered "privileged". Thus, your views are biased based on your privilege and you could never empathize with a "victim" of our patriarchal society and you must pay for your sins. They believe everything you earned is life has come at the expense of oppressing someone else. 5. They employ their own language and manipulate it and attempt to use language to dominate others. Ultimately, when pressed for specifics, evidence, logic, etc. they will speak in extremely vague terms because they don't seek truth, but power. An extremely antithetical view of the world. "Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power" Voltaire

Christine Vernon  

Posted: June 19th, 2019 2:59 PM

Thank you, Bruce, you just gave exactly the explanation of what I was trying to say about the use of what I called 'trade' language. How you have to be a part of that profession to understand it. Is the language of common people really so distasteful? Are we who use it regularly, and like it, inferior.? I do see something classist and elitist in a remark like Ms. West seems to impatiently write "ask someone who has 'a modern vocabulary" to explain. It's as if people who are considered 'plain- speaking (educated though we may be), because they don't understand the concept of intersectionality, are dopes. Many people reading that not-to-long-ago creation of that word which was coined in an academic setting will think it is another trendy Ivory Tower buzzword. So, the word "instersectionality" is not clear and it is not only confusing, it is controversial, too, as I demonstrated. Don't use it then in a public document. Use words to make the same point and get the concept that the word "intersectionality" tries to get across but fails, use words that are readily and historically understood by everyone, one word isn't enough. Use words understood, not just by some in a particular field, but words, that can be understood by everyday people.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 18th, 2019 8:46 PM


Bruce Kline  

Posted: June 18th, 2019 8:16 PM

Chris you raise an excellent point about professional jargon. Doctors use jargon as a means that distinguishes their "priesthood" from the "unwashed" masses. Their language is as specific to their profession as their dress as well as their intense training and education. There is a sense of power, and exclusivity in being a member of a fraternity of healers where doctors can understand each other, but outsiders can not. Its like being in a secret guild only open to a select few. Ultimately though most doctors who have been in practice long enough find that the real power is not speaking in a furtive tongue but rather being able to translate "doctor speak" into everyday language ? language that the patient can in fact understand. That is truly the core skill. No doctor should tell a patient asking to explain a diagnosis: "? ask a person with a more modern vocabulary." So I find it ironic that Ms. West whose business web site touts COMUNICATION takes great pride in just the opposite. Rather than speak in commonalities she prefers to go the initial "doctor route": jargon only understandable to the chosen few. Those not privy to the latest SWJ jargon are shamed and need to get with it. So here' a thought Ms. West. Why don't you actually try and communicate in language we can all understand. That, after all is your business in the first place, is it not?

Michael Nevins  

Posted: June 18th, 2019 7:20 PM

It appears as if the writer and those like her actually only want one thing: submission. We are to totally accept what they demand. Period. If not, then you do not believe in "equity" - whatever that means (yes, I did look it up in the dictionary and, essentially, it means whatever YOU decide is appropriate). Equity=Submission?

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 18th, 2019 2:28 AM

Therefore, the Diversity Statement means absolutely nothing.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: June 17th, 2019 11:03 PM

It seems as if there is not much objection to the statement. I appreciate the thoughtfulness allowing time for public input. The final draft should be able to stand up to scrutiny so that there is consensus. I don't agree that people should be shamed for wanting to understand the language of this work, or shamed for having to look up "intersectionality" because it is so vague. It has different definitions whether you look at Merriam Webster, Oxford, Cambridge, Macmillan or American Heritage. "Intersectionality" was a term first used in a paper at the University of Chicago. What do you mean by saying "ask a person with a more "modern" vocabulary'? Don't you really mean "Ask a social scientist'? It isn't surprising that people don't know a term specific to an academic field they are not involved with. For instance, a doctor may say to a colleague that a patient has varicella, but to the patient, not in the medical profession, the doctor will use the vernacular "chicken pox" because that is the common language used outside of the medical community by a lay person. It would be a lot to expect everyone to understand all the different trade languages of each profession. I like two definitions of the concept that the word 'intersectionality" works to impart, the definition of it from the Oxford Dictionary "overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage" (which defines it specifically). Or the stronger American Heritage definition, '1. A framework for understanding how multiple categories of identity (such as gender, race, and class) interact in ways that create complex systems of oppression and power. 2. The phenomenon resulting from such interactions. In stark contrast, Urban Slang defines "intersectionality" using crowd sourced definitions too numerous to distill but still worth taking a look at to get an idea how and why the word is controversial, and maybe better avoided. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=intersectionality

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2019 7:28 PM

If it was just a statement, let's say that "All are welcome" and that covers everyone with no need for made up words. Nice and simple. But it is not just a statement, it is going to be the reason for a whole bunch of expensive property tax policy tied to it. This paper just published a blog where equity was defined as redistribution of wealth. Really? That is a big difference from a diversity statement. This is a town, not a soviet republic. Two new Trustees out of eight is not a mandate. It is not petty for there to be a lot of talk around this before anything happens.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad