Just pass the update

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter


One View

As a new village trustee with no prior experience in local governance, I was hoping for a slow transition into my new position. I wanted to spend the first few months watching and learning. But as it turned out, I became engaged from Day 1 in the controversy over the update to the 50-year-old village Diversity Statement. 

My opinion on this controversy became clear to me as soon as the first resident gave their public comment on the issue at my first village board meeting on May 6: I fully support the updated version written by the Community Relations Commission. I am saddened by the reaction of my fellow trustees and other residents of Oak Park who have expressed their reservations about the CRC's recommended updates, and I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the concerns. 

First, opposition to adding the words "shelter" and "refuge" to the sentence, "The people of Oak Park choose this community, not just as a place to live, but as a way of life and as a place to seek [shelter, refuge, and] acceptance." I can't get my head wrapped around the opposition to this addition. Surely every heterosexual Oak Parker has a gay or transgendered friend or neighbor. Do you think some of them (us) live here only because of the good schools and proximity to Chicago? Many of them are here not just because they sought "acceptance." It may have been more than that. Perhaps they sought "refuge" from hateful families, bullying, and threats of violence. Is it that difficult to understand why for those folks, Oak Park is a place of refuge as well as acceptance? 

Second, opposition to the phrase "break down systems of oppression" in the sentence, "By embracing equity, with an explicit but not exclusive focus on racial equity, we work to break down systems of oppression and achieve a society where race no longer determines one's outcomes, and where everyone has what they need to thrive." You may not understand or even believe that systems of oppression exist in our society. But people of color are telling us that in their lived experiences they face systematic oppression. Why don't you believe them? Just do it. Believe them. Otherwise you just sound silly, and worse. 

Third, the board should vote unanimously to approve the statement. I do understand the heartwarming feelings generated every election cycle when the new board unanimously votes to accept the Diversity Statement. But we are at a unique point in the evolution of American society. Minority populations are demanding to be heard like never before, spurred on at times by the hateful bigotry on display by our nation's leaders. And others are pushing back, just like they did against the efforts of Oak Park activists in the early '70s, who passed plenty of initiatives with less than unanimous votes, and thank God for it. So I'm not concerned whether the entire village board votes to approve this statement or not. Let's get our four votes and move on to the real work of the village board. 

Finally — and now I'm feeling cranky — why is my letter even needed? There are people in Oak Park, including many people of color, who have pleaded with the village board for over a year to formally address equity and are now asking us to pass the updated statement. 

Shouldn't that be enough? For goodness sake let's get on with it. 

Susan Buchanan is a trustee of the village of Oak Park.

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

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

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

Comment Policy

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 11th, 2019 11:08 PM

Yep, still no examples of "systems of oppression" in Oak Park. Speaks volumes to Mr. Haley's journalistic integrity (though I think his piece was an editorial). I am sure in Dr. Buchanan's daily routine as an Md, she makes many decisions and I would hope most are based on evidence. Why would her work as a public servant be any different? Why is evidence not a determining factor in public policy? Why does emotion rule the day and not pragmatic, critical and reasonable thinking?

Christine Vernon  

Posted: June 10th, 2019 9:23 PM

Thanks Maureen for the links to the article and the CRC diversity statement and the link to the statement at the Village website. Oak Parkers love to read the fine print when it comes to anything the Village Board is working on and proposes to adopt.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 10th, 2019 1:09 PM

Guess what? I'm feeling rather cranky too. I tried to find the Wednesday Journal article from a week or two ago that included the text of the CRC diversity statement as well as the revision put forth by several trustees. And GUESS WHAT??? It's been deleted from the article. Along with all the comments that had been attached to the article. Here's a link to the article: https://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/5-21-2019/Controversy-over-diversity-statement-continues/ I did finally track it down linked to the meeting agenda on the Village website: https://oak-park.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3950529&GUID=F7F820B4-D27D-4428-81C4-BFFA1A4716B9

James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2019 10:31 AM

This column is emotion. It asks the board to soothe a trustee's "cranky" feeling by quickly endorsing a position that some see as based on poor logic. Emotional pleas seldom yield to logic, but I'll try anyway. "Intersectionality" is NOT commonly defined. Want to see a radical "take" on this theory? Go to intersectionalityscore.com. See the tips on how to improve your score: How about, "explore the wild side" of your sexuality, and get more involved in Islam and Judaism. Here's my emotion. I'm offended by the plea, "For goodness sake let's get on with it." It should not give the village, nor SJWs, the right to interfere with my personal standards.

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: June 9th, 2019 7:18 PM

Can we agree that the Village Board works on behalf of the citizens and taxpayers of Oak Park? If yes, then let's be clear that we offer "shelter" and "refuge" to the people who live here. Not everyone, not adjacent communities. Can we agree to that? Regarding "systems of oppression", I'm sure every Oak Parker would be mortified to learn that there are some here in the Village. So, why don't you point out exactly which ones you find most objectionable and which must first be addressed? I think if the , the Board, and the advocates for the revised policy can be clear, specific, and demonstrative, that the revised statement can pass easily. It's the lack of clarity and the possibility for overreach that is causing the resistance to the change (and frustration from a variety of Oak Parkers who are pleading for sanity)

Christine Vernon  

Posted: June 8th, 2019 4:56 PM

Gee Josh, that's a big jump to say "there are people who claim there is no minority oppression, some of them posting here". I don't see that in any one of these posts. What I see is a question about the process, or lack of it, involving inclusion, wording of these deliberations and a desire for specific areas of concern to be identified clearly and specifically in the now, so that we as a community could have a hope and an opportunity to work on those problems and make conditions better. Isn't that the purpose of meetings and government when it is functioning rightly? What is the point of working on this if government action doesn't make things better? If there are people here who don't recognize the 'institutional racism" that has existed in the country for as long as there has been a diverse population - institutional and systemic racism promoted in large measure and engaged in by government and business/corporations implementing en mass many of the policies that created and continued disparities which created illegal and unfair discrepancies regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, and elsewhere. When it comes to individual people and this continued evil, people consciously or unwittingly passed down generations of continuing hateful habits that have become "the culture", learned and inherited through their families, communities and even churches - continued oppression and discrimination. For some people hatred is like a drug that fuels them. They operate solo. Around the world, systems of oppression are not unique to one race, gender or ethnic group. A Historical Minority Oppression Denier, isn't very intelligent or well-educated. Information, enlightenment and education is the key. People chose Oak Park in large measure because of diversity and it's history of and stance for equal rights eventually!. If the Diversity Statement needs tweaking, let's get at it and make it right!

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 8th, 2019 2:27 PM

Josh. I can only speak for myself regarding this matter and do not claim to speak for anyone else. It is nothing more than what I have experienced in Oak Park, others I'm sure have different experiences. I have yet though to see any evidence of "systems of oppression" in Oak Park. It appears that talking about facts and evidence is a futile matter while the SJW's who control the narrative enjoy their fabricated "moral superiority" wrapped in bewilderment.

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: June 8th, 2019 8:31 AM

To be clear, I know there are people who claim there is no minority oppression, some of them posting here. Buchanan's letter is clearly addressed to the other Trustees, and I'd like her to quote the words of the specific Trustees that demonstrate they are denying the lived experiences of people of color.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: June 7th, 2019 4:34 PM

Too bad when a Trustee has to do reporting, lobbying and scolding while offering personal opinion. Trustee Buchanan, you are the first person reporting specific words people objected to, not everyone feels that way. The very ambiguous word "intersectionality" seemed to be the objectionable culprit because it is vague and non-specific. What is so hard about explaining those problems and grievances in a manner more understood by the majority of people. The draft was not in the paper that I saw. If the process had been open, residents included and given time for input, if readers had not felt a steamroller of emotion was driving this important effort - and possibly the necessary detachment and clear-headedness necessary was to best serve the objective of rewriting a good and current diversity statement was lacking ...well, then what? Maybe this uproar could have been avoided. Suddenly, there is that Laurel and Hardy feeling after reading the news reports ~ "Well , here's another fine mess you've gotten us into". (You being the big All of us YOU.) Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, doing reporting, said on May 21st that the deliberations were "a giant mess" and 'infuriating'. This and you, Trustee Buchanan reporting here that you are "feeling cranky", Mood and emotion reporting from trustees is a new one. There is no doubt that this job is hard! Did you know what you signed on for when you volunteered for this leadership? Feelings you have, the result of stress are not good for a person's blood pressure or mental health. As a cautionary tale, there was a trustee, very beloved by many, Martha Brock, who had to resign from the job of Trustee due to serious stress-related health issues: her experience in 2007. https://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/1-23-2007/Brock-resigns-from-Oak-Park-village-board/ Let's listen to one another's experiences, patiently, respectfully, and invalidate no one else's opinion or experiences. We want and we need you both to succeed!

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: June 7th, 2019 12:30 PM

My personal opinion on the diversity statement itself aside, I'm disappointed in the weak argument being set forth by this newest Trustee, whom for the record, I did not vote. She asserts that the purpose of her letter is to "address..the concerns" of both the trustees and OP residents who held reservations about the updates. If by "address" the Trustee meant "continue to disagree" with the reservations, then she probably achieved that dubious objective. However, if by "address" she meant to "refute the underlying assumptions of the reservations by data and facts" and, more productively, "show that the concerns behind the reservations were unwarranted," thus showing that the updates were both good and necessary?"she sorely failed. The biggest flaw in her letter overall was a failure to present, much less show understanding, of the other side's reasons for their position. That's absolutely NOT a way to promote dialogue, much less change minds. Breaking down the structure of her letter, she "addresses" the reservations by restating her opinion based on what she considers obvious conventional wisdom, arguing that some statements shouldn't be questioned (and shame on you for questioning them), and exhorting the Trustees to vote unanimously because "it's important" but also that they have "real work to do," and, finally, scolding everyone because, really, why is this letter even needed from an elected leader who was put in place to address the needs of the OP community. I'm not one for ad hominem comments, but this letter made me really upset. Is this the best we can expect from a new Trustee, especially one who is a practicing physician and should do a much better job of listening and relating to others whether she agrees with them or not?

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 7th, 2019 9:19 AM

From the diversity statement: "We believe the best decisions are made when everyone is represented in decision-making and power is shared collectively." If folks in Oak Park were genuinely awake regarding the state of affairs in my old village, they'd realize that hasn't been the case for some years now. Power has consolidated with just a small handful of people. Just look at the way the CRC appointment was made, by fiat, not after discussion and consultation.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: June 7th, 2019 9:11 AM

@Josh and and Susan. I have lived in Oak Park for over 20 years and as a woman of color with a heavy accent, I haven't experience oppression in Oak Park. We have incredible free parks and libraries, we have access to fresh food, quality healthcare, education, affordable housing a public transportation system that can get one to most jobs in less than an hour. Since this statement is unique to Oak Park, please provide an example of a "system of oppression" in Oak Park. Then once it's identified, we can all work together to end it. Keep in mind the definition of oppression is "prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.The state of being subject to unjust treatment or control."

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: June 7th, 2019 7:13 AM

"You may not understand or even believe that systems of oppression exist in our society. But people of color are telling us that in their lived experiences they face systematic oppression. Why don't you believe them? Just do it. Believe them. Otherwise you just sound silly, and worse. " This is a strawman. Nobody is making the argument that minority populations are not oppressed. Can you point me to the person who is making that argument? Quote their words. The idea that if we don't accept the verbatim words of the CRC we are denying the lived experience of minority populations is just silly. Get serious.

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: June 6th, 2019 9:56 PM

An eloquent letter that shows leadership. I agree 100%. Susan Buchanan, thank you!

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: June 6th, 2019 9:54 PM

An eloquent letter that shows leadership! I agree 100%. Susan Buchanan, thanks for writing it. I'm proud to have you on the board.

Marcy Grant Pirkola from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2019 2:05 AM

Thank you for your eloquent plea and for representing us. I'm proud to have you as my trustee! ?'??'??'?

Jim Kelly  

Posted: June 5th, 2019 6:33 PM

Thank you for this reasoned and empathetic perspective on this controversy!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2019 5:41 PM

People in town have been pleading for an end to the massive and constant increases in property taxes, and they have been ignored every time. So people pleading doesn't really mean much around here as far as it being a reason to do anything.

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