Oak Park trustee says its time to talk about violence, race and class

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Oak Park Trustee Ray Johnson used his time at the end of the July 22 board meeting to address the alarming pattern of violence in the area, specifically following the news of the third teen from Oak Park who was shot and killed last week.

He also expressed anger about comments on the issue that blamed the victim, a fact he said was not only troubling but misdirected. Johnson requested that the Community Relations Commission take this time to open up a real dialogue about violence, race and class in the community. More importantly, he noted, a conversation between Oak Parkers and Chicagoans needs strengthening.

"These borders are artificial borders," Johnson stressed. "[The shootings] are literally happening in our backyard." He also reminded his colleagues that Oak Park must not become a bubble, asking, "Is this the time and place for Oak Park to try and start a conversation?"

Yes, it most certainly is, the trustee concluded.

Here at Wednesday Journal, we're also interested in opeing up an educated dialogue on the subject. If you have thoughts on the subject, email staff reporter Anna Lothson at Anna@oakpark.com or call 708-613-3311.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 9:11 PM

It appears that you and I are not on the same page, OP Transplant. I did not post my comments based upon the race of any individual I felt deserved a helping hand or would benefit from a second chance. It is unfortunate that you concluded that I was "voicing condescending paternalism" or attempting to stress superiority. Let's just agree to disagree and I'll leave you to your thoughts.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 5:36 PM

I don't think Ed's alone in thinking we could do with less panhandling and crime. You say "NIMBY" derisively, but I've had crime in my backyard, when my garage was broken into. I didn't like it. I've also dealt with some pretty aggressive panhandling on Lake Street that I could do without. It's not necessarily in our best interest to be a magnet community for the homeless. I've encountered lackluster response from the local PD (unless I forget and leave my car out overnight.)

Ed, a great american hero from Oak Park  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 5:16 PM

Hey Ed, history is full of people with your same ideas; rounding up the riff-raff, shipping them off somewhere, NIMBY, guess how that ends? I bet you can!

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 4:09 PM

FYI - Orphans, the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled...but this is a discussion about race, class, and violence. If you don't know that it's offensive for people with light skin to talk about how people with dark skin need extra help because they're less "equipped", then I'm not sure anything will break through your preexisting notions about race. The only thing worse than white people who think that is black people who think that.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 3:31 PM

So, OP Transplant- are YOU saying there are no people in the world who are"not equipped to deal with life's challenges"? Really? At the risk of sounding condescending, you need to open your eyes and ears.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 3:10 PM

Jim - When you talk about people being "not properly equipped to cope with life's challenges", you're voicing the condescending paternalism many well-intentioned white people feel for inner city blacks. I did my time in the military, and got my undergrad degree courtesy of the GI Bill. That route is open to everyone. For many people, expressing a desire to help the less equipped serves the dual purpose of also stressing their own superiority. The white man's burden.

Ed Smith  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:49 PM

Dont you think the hoods on the west side are smart enough to know this is ground zero for begging and stealing. They are laughing at our liberal nonsense and taking advantage of our generosity, school system, facilities, bikes, gutters, purses and loose change every day. I would also get rid of the pads program as that only leads to bums sitting in our newly renovated park and library waiting around for a handout or loitering in the morning.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:49 PM

Jim, sure, I will start being "specific" about measure when you do, but for starters sake, look at some zero tolerance policies that were implemented in New York. Please feel free to detailed descriptions of the plans you think will affect change in both the short and long term.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:45 PM

Jim, I am not holding my breath precisely because of what you mentioned... that much of the decision is dependent on the support of the village and it's residents. I don't believe most people here either see the problem, want to acknowledge it or are brave enough to risk being labelled a "racist" or "fascist" to support REAL action. So I will be VERY surprised if anything substantial comes as a result of any public discourse, but like I said, I'm not holding my breath.

Ed Smith  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:45 PM

Until the black people fix their own problems there is nothing us white folk can do. I think being vigiliant and getting rid of things like bums around the library, panhandlers on Lake street, bums hanging around the harlem el station and reporting when you see black kids with hoodies wandering aimlessley through the streets is a good start to help eliminate crime. dont be too liberal to call police when somone looks out of place. Your gut feeling is usually right. lets call jussie and al

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:40 PM

James, you'll have to specific regarding the types of harsh punishment you are advocating for people convicted of "smaller crimes". I don't want to speculate what you are seeking but would be intersted in learning exactly what types of measures you think would be appropriate.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:38 PM

I know this may not be a popular idea, or not considered "progressive" by the village standards, but discipline and accountability works, whether one wants to admit it or not. If someone know that their screwing around will be met with harsh punishment, they WILL think twice, or move on to a place with less discipline. Ask any teacher that knows how to deal with large groups of dysfunctional students, and they will tell you that this works.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:34 PM

Ray Johnson has called for a discussion and hopefully this community wide dialogue will produce some of the short term solutions being sought by concerned folks who have posted on this forum. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that OPPD is not going to able to tackle these issues without direction from trustees and residents' support. It also may be time to revisit the board's ill-advised decision to eliminate the Community Relations department.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:29 PM

Harsher punishments for smaller crimes seemed to work well in New York, and it seems to work well in developed countries in south east Asia, which boast substantially higher levels of safety in comparison to the U.S. There is a time for changing the culture and fixing the system, but there also needs to be realistic ways to address current crime and criminals NOW. We can't just sit on our thumbs waiting for the system and culture to catch up... which is one of the reasons for the mess right now.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:25 PM

Jim, your just talking about generalized problems with the system all over the States again, and generalized solutions too. Though I would like the non-violent crimes to go down, I'm more concerned about the violent crime that are on the up tick. Yeah, fix the prisons, find ways to rehabilitate etc... but are you suggesting that there are no laws that will scare criminals away from committing crime? Are you suggesting that harsher punishment is not a deterrent? Cont...

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:24 PM

Congrats on your success. No doubt people are able to achieve great things in life in spite of having to overcome significant obstacles. Bill Clinton proved that. Sadly, there are folks who are not properly equipped to cope with life's challenges. We should be willing to offer a helping hand in terms of providing education, adequate housing, vocational training and economic support.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 1:40 PM

Jim - I'll admit I have little interest in root causes. I'm not white, and if I were looking for excuses, I could stack my childhood experience of poverty, trauma, and disadvantage up against just about anybody's, But nothing that happened to me decades ago prevents me from going to work every day and paying attention to my own kids. Many adults have perfectly good excuses to fail. Luckily, we get to choose not to. At a certain point, you either choose to carry your own weight or you don't.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 1:24 PM

Jim, no one disputes that... However, fixing drug laws, prison system, dysfunctional families, and all the other ills of society are long term solutions. The issue is what we do in the short term to protect the village? None of those root causes matter to most folks when their lawnmower is being pushed down North Ave to a pawnshop.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 12:53 PM

I guess you have to understand what compels people to ignore acceptable standards of behavior and engage in petty criminal activities. A lot of them are dealing with substance abuse and will use the ill gotten gains just to feed an addiction. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle detailed the benefits of early intervention, education and treatment versus incarceration. It is considerably more cost efffective to spend our tax dollars funding those types of programs and services than to jail non-violent offenders. The revolving door syndrome at our prisons demonstrates that the current approach simply does not work. Again, I say we need to be protected from those who seek to do us bodily harm but let's break that cycle of repeat offending by dealing with those types of non- violent crimes as anti-social behavior that can be changed.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 12:16 PM

Jim, I'm all for addressing the "root causes", but for that to happen, a large majority of residents in Austin (not the affluent Galewood one's that are all employed and raise their kids) need to be actively engaged in the conversation... and STILL it will take a long time to change culture. Will it happen in MY life time? MY kids? I doubt it, because the Chicago government does not seem interested. We need measures NOW! And coming from Oak Park! What are your suggestions for THAT!


Posted: July 30th, 2013 12:09 PM

@Huh, yes I agree that white on white needs to be addressed in certain areas, but does it need to be addressed in Oak Park? NO! Because it's not a problem here! We have different problems that require different solutions. I know you're probably trying to make some kind of point about racial equality, but your comment is neither here nor there. If you want to talk about white on white crime, then go to some area where that's a real problem... your wasting your breath here.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 11:27 AM

Saying "I could care less about the root causes" might be an example of why a discussion on effective ways to address crime on our community is needed. Bringing together a diverse group of interested citizens and public officials seems like an important and positive first step.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 10:48 AM

Individuals could just decide to behave better, work harder, parent more carefully, and be more responsible to their communities. Why is it wrong for me to expect the same behavior from black citizens in Austin as I do from my neighbors, some of whom are also black? Isn't it racist to automatically lower our standards and expectations? Decades of excuse-making has done nothing to improve the inequality.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 10:39 AM

When is the white community finally going to address their role in white-on-white crime? http://gawker.com/video-of-violent-rioting-surfers-shows-white-culture-o-954939719 "...according to research from the DOJ, 84 % of white murder victims are killed by other white people. Similarly, white rape victims tend to be raped by other whites. White-on-white violence is a menace to white communities across the country, and yet you never hear white leaders...take a firm stance against the scourge."

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 10:35 AM

Jim we can wax poetic about social justice, inequality, and all the other causes of anti-social, thug behavior. I agree that it is a huge problem with no single silver bullet solution. However, in the short term we need to focus on what works against the daily petty crime and occassional more serious crimes that plague the village. Personally, I could careless about root causes when a crackhead breaks into my garage or a pack of feral youth beat up someone for an iphone on the greenline.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 3:48 AM

Yeah, Jim, fix the legal system, but the idea that we should give thugs a pass just cause some white collard criminals get one is pathetic. I can completely "expect people not to question why they should adhere to standards of civility and decency" because I "adhere to standards of civility and decency". The level of ethics held by white, blue and no collar thugs is not representative of MINE, so how about measuring it against MINE, NOT other criminals that get a free ride.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 3:41 AM

Come on, Jim, the "crime rates are going down" argument is the typical excuse. Plus, the general numbers are going down in Oak Park, but how about the trend of violent crimes? Sure, educate the masses, fix the prisons, change the culture etc... Are all solutions batted typically around, and ones that Oak Park has little control over considering most of the threats are from outside the village. How about some specific solutions Oak Park can actually implement? Cont...

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 30th, 2013 2:03 AM

I won't present myself to having answers to the problem and do concede that it clearly frustrates people that efforts seem to be generally counter- and un- productive. But, crime rates are going down. That's small consolation to someone who has been a victim. My concern is that we lack an understanding of the root causes of anti-social behavior and not enough is being done towards early intervention and rehabilation. It's a very small percentage of the general population who engage in criminal activities and recidivism has to be combated with strict sentencing laws. We already incarcerate a greater percentage of our citizens than many developed countries and even some repressive regimes. The modern for-profit prison systems are not providing any type of counseling or vocational training. A person with a criminal record will struggle in society and too often revert to bad habits when back on the streets. Law enforcement needs to reestablish trust in communities and citizens have to cooperate if safety in the neighborhoods is to be achieved. Education and economic opportunity will keep many from risking their freedom by committing a cheap and senseless act. Obviously, a very complicated social issue that needs to be dealt with on level that is just and fair. Protect us from the violent ones but work with those who will work and demonstrate a desire for a second chance. We also cannot expect people not to question why they should adhere to standards of civility and decency while witnessing the corporate criminals paying only a minimal fine for their illegal activities and offensive transgressions. Equal treatment under the law.


Posted: July 30th, 2013 1:12 AM

Jim, I don't advocate going around "crackin skulls" or using any unnecessary force... But please tell us what's been tried and hasn't failed, and continues to succeed... then maybe your contribution to the discussion will have some value.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 29th, 2013 10:29 PM

"Crackin skulls" has been tried and failed.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 29th, 2013 5:44 PM

James, thanks for your passionate & informed comments. It's clear that many in our town want others to listen, but don't really listen themselves. As far as 1st steps, the OPPD should focus on swift response to all small incidents, as well as the heavy stuff. Rudy Giuliani proved that in urban areas you can reduce violent crime by first stopping the non-violent stuff, & taking it all seriously. Also if we're going to dialogue, lets call the problem what it is: Gang Violence, not gun violence.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 29th, 2013 5:25 PM

I guarantee that if OPD starts aggressively cracking skulls, word would get out not to go west of Austin unless you are on your best behavior. Thugs aren't stupid and sometimes you have to let the "streets" know you ain't playing. Of course, there will be cries of racism and profiling, but Oak Park needs to decide what they want. A safe village or an unsafe village. Given our location, we have to be less accepting thus we get viewed as weak and easy prey. Its that simple.


Posted: July 29th, 2013 5:13 PM

Every time I bring up the subject of violent crime in Oak Park, and how it's largely perpetrated by people from Chicago that see Oak Parker's as easy targets... they shut down or get defensive and say something dismissive like "well it's just desperate times" or "they have it much worse" or "at least we're accepting of all people" etc, etc, etc... This mindset is wide spread in the village and nothing much will change until people start seeing things for what they are.


Posted: July 29th, 2013 5:09 PM

Ray, I'm all in if you have a method that works to reduce violence here, even if it ruffles some feathers, but I'm not the one you need to connivence... it's the 50 odd other thousand residents with a bleeding heart for the under privileged thugs you need to win over. I'd bet the majority of people in the village aren't even interested in the discussion, let alone going out of their way to be a part of any kind of action.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 28th, 2013 8:43 AM

@ James - A long trip starts with that first small step. We would not be doing anything mean to the poor - just to those who choose to be a menace to our community. I make no mention of race or color - everyone would know that justice would be swift, certain and punitive. Most of the violence in Oak Park is by non-residents against resident good citizens. Our government is supposed to look after the safety and well being of residents and if outsiders choose to prey upon us they do so at their own peril. Judges are not use to communities standing up and taking a position and public disclosure of their decisions isn't the norm. I always voted no to one judge who signed every mafia gangsters release order. That was my small objection to a corrupt judge. He always got re elected but I never felt responsible. I still remember his name three decades after his demise. I am sure he is toasted to well done by now. I understand that village intervention in trials has been done in the past, but never as a village legal commitment.


Posted: July 28th, 2013 1:46 AM

Ray, I think having judges be touch on criminals is a great idea, but I just don't see the pressure coming from a place like Oak Park. There are too many people that would rather not be seen as doing something conservative (because support for being tough on poor criminals would send that message), and would rather be seen as "accepting" and "forgiving". It's up to village leaders and people in power to apply the pressure in the best interest of public safety. That's why we elect people.


Posted: July 28th, 2013 1:36 AM

@ Huh, Go ahead and make your argument for why you believe I'm wrong. I "talk", "listen" to and interact with black people on a daily basis, from poor areas on the west and south sides. Save your preaching for someone else. If you don't have anything productive to add, then be quiet.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: July 27th, 2013 5:53 PM

not a bad idea Ray. I'd like to see the court systems get tougher on violent crime myself. Stories like the charges being dropped against the folks picked up for mob action on the mag mile earlier this year lend well to an attitude of no consequences for behavior for folks that seem to have no issue with committing violent crime.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 27th, 2013 9:51 AM

@James - If Oak Park would adopt a zero tolerance toward violence policy we might get known as a bad place to do bad things. We need to be very visible in court hearings to make sure that thugs get the maximum bond, charges and sentence when found guilty. Any judge who accepts any plea bargain can count on a picture in the Wednesday Journal and a blurb about how he/she let bad guys off the hook in our town. At election time judges could also look for a box score of how squishy or tough they have been in resolving crime and violence. This would be money well spent and a whole lot cheaper than a wall or a bubble. Being tough on crime would make citizens feel safer, police feel that their effort is visible and the board happy that a measurable effort can be claimed as a real success. Think about the fear that would pass through the heart of a judge who enters court knowing that an activist community will be making a case for no leniency and willing to make public any back room deals. If that works, picture a judge entering court and the whole first row is lawyers for Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Berwyn, North Riverside and Cicero all demanding maximum bonds, charges and sentences. Then in the second row we might find Ken Trainor with his little digital recorder keeping score.


Posted: July 27th, 2013 9:48 AM

James, you may think now a multipart, anonymous, one-way comment/lecture is more productive than a conversation, but your comments in fact demonstrate the very reason we need to have this conversation. Once you start actually talking (and perhaps more important, listening) to actual black people, your ignorance and bias may subside.


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:54 AM

We do not have the option of building a giant wall and creating a bubble, and I'm sure the majority of Oak Parkers would move out if that happened, but I think an invisible wall may be possible in some way, such as having police stationed around the perimeter of the village. Even this would be met with large scale resistance. Thus the problem with crime in a largely hyper liberal town, where people are not willing to make others accountable with the fear of being branded racist.


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:49 AM

Maybe it's too painful to acknowledge that a large number of the community has allowed their hood and family values to devolve into the mess it is today. Maybe it's too easy to just blame someone else for their own lack of effort in keeping up with a positive moral code. The typical thing people with money do is to move far away from these problems, but Oak Parkers chose their location, and with that comes living next to a highly dysfunctional area with high crime that spill over.


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:45 AM

on a day to day basis when it is boring to enact a change of culture. The AA community seems to be stuck in a downward spiral with uneducated single parenting, drugs, guns, the proliferation of highly negative role models such as gangsters, gangster rapers, inadequate parents, poor education etc... and the community will speak loud at times when the symptoms of these dysfunctions arise, but will rarely address the core issues head on and honestly while being self accountable. Cont...


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:37 AM

which will never happen in crook county Illinois, or have the AA community push for large scale cultural change, which will take great efforts, and will be met with great resistance by it's own community. Sometimes it takes a situation to hit rock bottom before one can acknowledge that change needs to happen, yet what happens in the AA community keeps hitting rock bottom, yet nothing changes. A march here, a protest there, about violence solves little if there is no effort cont...


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:33 AM

At the end of the day, criminals and thugs are not going to stop coming to Oak Park to lash out just because Oak Parkers are talking about it and demanding an end to it. The police can only do what they're already doing. And CPD are not in a position to create large scale initiatives to change Austin, let alone stop criminals from entering Oak Park. The only way anything is going to change is either the creation of harsher punishments for smaller crimes cont...


Posted: July 27th, 2013 2:29 AM

Discussions are a good starting point, but it will take a lot more effort than mere discussions to start to create positive change. First it's going to take a substantial number of people in the AA community to acknowledge that there is need for a mass scale cultural change for the positive, and then there needs to be strategies for ways to enact that change. There needs to be change in the Oak Park white community, to bury the white guilt, and hold people accountable regardless of race cont...

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 2:32 PM

To follow up, a fund at Community Bank has been set up to help pay the $9,000 in funeral expenses for Demani Henard. The WJ has written a story today with details....http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/7-26-2013/Fund-established-for-family-of-slain-Oak-Park-boy/

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 11:39 AM

I'm not trying to minimize the value of hones discussion. But, ultimately, the question becomes, "What can the largely-white, relatively affluent people of Oak Park do to change conditions for the less-affluent, largely black people of Austin?" I'm afraid the answer is , "Not much." Our proximity means we have to deal with the crime, and there's little we can do to change it. That "bubble" sounds better and better.

Loves Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 10:50 AM

Until the AA community admits they have a problem within their community and stops displacing their aggression under the guise of racism, we can't have a valid discussion. Stop the violence and in return Caucasians need to promise to stop the stereotype. Until then Maslow's security needs will cause people to profile for their safety.

Been Around the Block  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 9:47 AM

Trust me, the poster identifying himself as Django is not a black person. Django is a white teenager trying to sound black. Probably on vacation at the lake house about now so won't be defending him/herself anytime soon. Don't take the bait.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 7:54 AM

C'mon guys. You don't really believe this "Django" character. I truly think Django is two white high-school sophomores who write the stupidest things they can think of in bad "Amos and Andy" syntax to mess with the grown-ups. "White folk Really think they God..." You're buying this?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 26th, 2013 7:14 AM

A part of our grand solution for reducing violence, race and class issues is how to marginalize people like Django and expose them for the problems the create. Is Django black? If not he/she/it is a menace to our society.


Posted: July 26th, 2013 2:54 AM

Racist's such as Django are a big part of the problem, because their racist "us against them", "all whites are evil", mentality is a big reason for what continues to segregate black and white communities. There are good people in both affluent and poor, black and white (or any other color) communities, but it is unfortunate that the racist and hateful, such as Django, keep us from progressing. Unfortunately there will always be racists like Django that will try to poison the young.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 11:49 PM

Wrong, Django!


Posted: July 25th, 2013 5:53 PM

Bridget, I have no problem with them removing my comment. In trying to make a larger point about race and hypocrisy in Oak Park, I disrespected a grieving family and that was wrong but there was no way for me to edit it or remove it. I am glad when they remove comments from anonymous posters here criticizing black families who are mourning their children, and it's fair that mine was removed. No explanations are needed. These are our neighbors and we should stop being jerks to them.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 5:12 PM

WJ, Why was "Huh"'s original comment removed? If other commenters address another commenter, you can't totally remove the comment, because then the conversation makes no sense. There should be a marker, where the original comment was, saying "comment removed" and give the reason why. Or, another option is to keep the comment, but then edit out whatever violated the comment policy, with a note saying that such editing was done. Yeah, I know you're short staffed...just sayin'...


Posted: July 25th, 2013 3:06 PM

I think you're getting your victims mixed up. If you are referring to prior arrests, I believe it is Alexander Mayo who was arrested in 2012 for drug possession (small amount but not cannabis).

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 2:33 PM

@Huh, Regarding the WJ removing the stories of Swordy's past arrests, I agree that that's wrong. I'm not saying the WJ should highlight the information in the coverage of his death, but to remove past stories, well, that's just not right. I did do a Google search looking for the stories (as I did read them last week) but can't seem to find them...

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 2:29 PM

@Huh, I'm sorry, I thought you were referring to Demani Henard's family. You are talking about Alexander Mayo's family. I don't know either of those families, nor Chris Swordy's family. Is the Mayo family having a fundraiser, like the Ale House is having for Chris (b/c he worked there)? If they are, I'm sure the WJ would post the information.

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 2:23 PM

@Huh. Glad to talk in a even tone and see sensitivity on both sides. No anger intended on my part. I believe the biggest challenge on the whole racial issue is to get beyond the "gut" reactions and into some depth that brings ideas to make life better for everyone. Your latest comments move in the right direction.


Posted: July 25th, 2013 1:49 PM

Bridget, the family whose son was shot in Lawndale has lived in Oak Park for twenty years. He was graduate of D97 schools and OPRF. @Jim The WJ has already removed multiple reports of the boy's arrests. I'm not saying he was a bad kid, or that it's wasn't a tragedy or that the community should not grieve. We all make mistakes and bad choices, but the consequences for being out late of smoking pot are often worse for black kids than white kids. Stop just blaming the families.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 1:31 PM

@Huh, I noticed the *perceived* response of the community you point out in those two deaths.One thing that may shed some light on the discrepancy is that one family has a long history, many relationships already built, in OP. The other just moved here, and found its support in its established relationships (such as the mom's co-workers who contributed a significant amount of money for the funeral). Also a factor is about who uses social media to spread their fundraising efforts, and who doesn't.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 12:24 PM

Roger aptly demonstrates why no progress is made. The constant fear of being called a racist for pointing out something that may not be politically correct. This is why I wonder if there really are in macro level solutions. Until the black community is willing to look in the mirror and own and accept responsibility for the real issues affecting the community, having a conversation is a complete waste of time. It is like trying to discuss rehab with someone who won't admit a drug habit.


Posted: July 25th, 2013 12:00 PM

my comment stands. you are both wrong. Ray, your comment is nonsense. grow up

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 11:46 AM

@ Roger - The fear of being called a racist has been a key factor in the failure to find the solutions we seek. You and your attitude are the problem not the solution. We are going to have to evaluate and define the problem. If racial components are a part of the problem - then the adult thing to do is to put it on the table and find answers. Fear mongering solves NOTHING!!

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 11:35 AM

I'm in full agreement that while dialogue is fine, action is the more real and necessary path, ideally with as little government intervention as possible. Anyone sincerely interested in action might start here...http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/. I've known the CEO, Dan Bassill, for many years. He's a pioneer with inner city tutoring/mentoring programs, & I worked with him at years ago at Cabrini Connections. This was an initiative founded in partnership with Montgomery Ward Co, and was able to make a real difference in what was at the time among the worst areas in the country. There are many ways to help, be it your time, your talent, or your treasure. If you're interested in real solutions, not just railing against the NRA or Democrat policies, check into this or other organizations and do something.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 11:10 AM

Roger - If there are things that people are not allowed to say, then there can be no dialogue. It's possible, necessary even, to make observations about the negative, self-destructive aspects of inner-city AA culture without racist intent.


Posted: July 25th, 2013 11:01 AM

shame on all of us for the hateful racist comments. that is where education is neede

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 10:13 AM

Great idea. I would like to see an ad-hoc, non-government organization take the lead in Oak Park; its mission would be to address perceived race issues, problems and solutions in Oak Park and surrounding communities. The Coalition for Childhood Development could be involved with its goal of shaping young minds. John Hubbuch makes some reasonable points in his most recent column. Keep Trainor out of it?"his comments are idiotic and his mind is about as open as the 5/3rd Bank's vault at 3 a.m.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 9:19 AM

You would almost need a wholesale reform of school system, economic policy, social welfare, and justice system simultaneously. The entire ethos of the black underclass has to be reprogrammed. The hole that was dug over the past 50 years is extremely deep.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 9:15 AM

The black community has some form of stockholm syndrome. You look at the problems of break down of family, subpar education, lack of jobs, etc. All of these issues can be directly tied back to liberal policies over the past 50 years. Yet the community can't make the connection with their current predicament due to the misdirection of the white boogie man lurking in the shadows. There is an entire generation that has been lost and I don't know that there is a solution...

Elliot from FP  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 7:52 AM

http://ymenchicago.com/ This organization has a great program in the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago with many success stories. It also has one of the most passionate leaders (Mike Trout) I've ever met. If someone is truly interested in making a difference, perhaps a conversation with the YMEN organization would be a good place to start.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 7:24 AM

What is the solution to a problem of a whole sector of our society who settle grudges by killing one another? We wring our hands, blame the NRA, talk endlessly and wish the world were different. There will be no improvement until drugs are brought under control, family units are re established and welfare cycles are broken. Government has had 50 years of history of failing our youth with only the best intentions. Now we have a wasted generation who is creating another generation of even more dependent children. Enough is enough! When my kids were young TOUGH LOVE was being tried and though harsh and strict it gave kids a sense of where the lines were drawn in the sand. The idea of taking a lawyer to a parent teacher meeting would have never crossed our minds. We had faith that the schools did care about our children and there were no union rules to affect those beliefs. Talk your hearts out - do not expect anything better until the culture is returned to family values and respect for the law. How do we do that - hell I have no clue. Being honest about the problem might be a best first step. Blaming others is a bad route to follow.

Oakparker from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 12:57 AM

There are many culprits on this whole issue: lack of jobs, negative messages, lack of positive role models, music that promotes bad behavior, etc. etc. I think Ray Johnson has a worthy idea. Discussion is good, but action is what's needed. Every time I hear about a small child being shot in Chicago, I am sickened. I often wonder how Martin Luther King would have reacted to so much black-on-black crime after all of his efforts.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 11:23 PM

Thanks Bridgett -- exactly what I'm hoping a conversation starts -- information sharing about how Oak Park residents might get involved!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 11:02 PM

Hate to sound so cynical, but doesn't the crime cringe occur every summer when the sun has people out and about until 8:30 at night? When daylight savings wanes, the heat of the crime issue wanes as well. As far asa commission looking into such a complex problem, shouldn't the staff leaders get involved first and if they need support a blue ribbon committee made up of representatives from the taxing bodies, and professional with expertise on enforcement of crime be more appropriate?.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 10:03 PM

Fatherless youth. Black American teenagers are killing black American teenagers. If folks are interested in being a part of a real solution then the talk has to stop and the sleeves need to be rolled up. It's about building relationships with "at-risk" kids. That takes time and commitment. Mentoring and/or financially supporting organizations that mentor. There are organizations already doing it. Here is one: http://www.gripyouth.com/

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 9:49 PM

Thank you Trustee Johnson!


Posted: July 24th, 2013 9:07 PM

We should focus more on policing and protecting our borders from the violence taking place in our neighboring communities. Too much of this violence and crime has made it's way into Oak Park already. Living in a bubble free of violence and crime is okay by me.

muriel schnierow from Oak park,Ill   

Posted: July 24th, 2013 7:28 PM

sorry folks the 3 is a typo.

muriel schnierow from Oak Park ill  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 7:27 PM

we must realize that endless discussions will not stop crime. training small children might help but not until we have strict gun control.guns are a 12 billion dollar industry and the NRA gets blood money to bribe Congress. It is not, never was about the 2nd amendment . we need action on gun control.the3 legislators never should have voted down the Governors amendatory veto.

Denise N.   

Posted: July 24th, 2013 7:22 PM

AMEN! Thank you, Sir!

kathryn jonas from oak park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 7:06 PM

I hope Trustee Johnson gets support from the entire Board for a dialogue on this issue. It's been done before and it's time to revive it. The lack of diversity on Oak Park's various elected/volunteer Boards (library, township, park district, village, citizens commissions and members of the current Comprehensive Planning process "Envision") might be a topic for discussion. The Wednesday Journal says they would welcome an "educated" dialogue on this issue; perhaps they could define "educated".

Christine Cummings from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 6:42 PM

Let the conversations begin! Thankful for this.

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