Things that give me pause about Oak Park

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I sympathize with Ms. Kreyer about some of the changes in Oak Park [What happened to Oak Park? Viewpoints, Sept. 4]. I, too, moved into Oak Park in 1974. We were one of the first black families in our neighborhood. Regarding the WPA murals, I agree with the decision to remove them. Why? Because they were stereotypical, racist and demeaning to people of color, and a source of embarrassment for the children so negatively depicted. I wonder, if white people, white women, Christians and other members of the majority were depicted so negatively, they would feel so strongly about "preserving" history in this way.

The Hatch mural controversy some years ago was settled by removing those murals and creating a curriculum about them for anyone to use if they so chose. In all the years after they were removed and preserved (because some people felt they were "important history") I can recall only one or two inquiries about them while I was director of Multicultural Education for District 97. Evidently only preserving demeaning images of marginalized people was important, but not learning about the effects of discrimination and working to improve society by being respectful to everyone.

Some of the things that give me pause about Oak Park:

The proliferation of condos and high-rises and their effects on our schools and traffic

The parking meters on the west end of Madison Street before there are any businesses and the lack of parking meters in the center and on the east end of Madison where there are.

The "road diet" on Madison Street which pushes traffic onto the side streets

The lack of leadership in our community for the diversity on which we have long built our community's reputation. Eliminating the Multicultural Center was a big one for me because it reflected a notion that the study of the cultures that have helped shaped our country and our values is not important. 

I have serious reservations about how "equity" initiatives in District 97 and District 200 can have any real and positive impact on the education and social successes of children of color without addressing issues of race, income, respect for diversity, inclusion in the courses of study, and cultural competence of school staff members, but I am willing to wait and see what becomes of it all. 

There are good people in both school districts. I hope they will preserve the diversity goals that were affirmed for over four decades by at least three strategic planning committees in D97 and the Oak Park Village Board. These are important values that need to be preserved in our town and in our country.

We shall see.

Lynn Allen

Oak Park

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