As a racial scholar and advocate, with an interest in White liberal northern racism, I’ve been closely following the racial equity “vision statement” conversation with Oak Park Village Board. First it’s amazing that there is this much struggle over A VISION STATEMENT! It’s just words! There is literally nothing actually being proposed that will change ANYTHING for White people. Yet, folks are protesting against words that explicitly say Oak Park is against racism.
Watching has been an emotional roller coaster for me; I’ve laughed, cried, yelled, felt despair, but also encouraged by the fearlessness of people calling out racist nonsense (go Arti, go!), and also slightly depressed. Its was all mostly educational, and a little entertaining, until I learned that the Village Trustees appointed someone to be the leader of CRC, without the input of CRC members! (what is this? Latin America?)
After that, I was done with my Oak Park racism research. Any hopes that I had that Oak Park would authentically look at its racism and/or actually do something proactive to stop racism were dashed. I decided to take a break from my research, and a break from my self-appointed role as, “Oak Park racism monitor” for my own mental health.
And, for a while, I was doing good, minding my own business and ignoring racism in Oak Park. I instead focused on the business of my own Village, the new Mayor of Chicago, and used all my “racism monitoring” energy on President Donald Trump. So, you know, I was too busy to engage in Oak Park racism.
But then…someone sent me a copy from Village President Anana Abu-Taleb titled, “We can do better than “us vs. them.” After I read the first paragraph, I was back on racial monitoring duty! I grabbed my “Oak Park racism monitor outfit” (it’s an orange vest and whistle,) and blew my whistle, because this piece was a racism violation! As I read it, I yelled, (to myself and my houseplant) “This is racism! This is racist! Seriously, how does he not know the difference between diversity and racism? Did he even go to a meeting? He could have just googled “racial equity framework!”
The whole piece was bad, but the part that made me start writing again, interrupting my summer break as “Oak Park racist monitor,” was this statement:
“Over the last 50 years, through the goodness, generosity, decency and foresight of its people and its leaders, Oak Park has maintained a national reputation of being a welcoming place for all of us. Rather than live in communities that predominantly reflect their own race and are surrounded by people who have similar views, residents of Oak Park, regardless of their skin color and regardless of their creed, choose to live here because diversity makes us stronger. Our lives are fuller because of our exposure to each other’s views, struggles, aspirations, successes and cultures.”
I was stunned. NONE of that has ANYTHING to do with racism or systemic racism! Then I realized, maybe he really didn’t understand racism? So instead of going on my “this is racist” tirade, I am going to use this as a learning opportunity. Since I suspect, many Oak Park’ers, Village President included, are ignorant about what makes someone racist or what makes someone not a racist, I will offer my, unsolicited, scholarly knowledge to educate folks about racism.
Here are 50 things that DON’T stop you from being racist and/or supporting racist institutions or have anything to do with a racial equity platform:
- Having a Black friend.
- Having a Black neighbor
- Working with Black people.
- Getting paid to help Black people.
- Having a degree that has “Black” “indigenous” or anything about “Non-White” people
- Having a Black romantic partner.
- Having Black children.
- Liking Black artists.
- Liking Black athletes.
- Seeing a “suspicious Black person” and not calling the police.
- Being a “good person.”
- Being a Muslim.
- Being an immigrant.
- Being Black (we still participate and uphold racist systems)
- Attending a Black event.
- Your children having Black friends.
- Liking rap music.
- Voting for Barack Obama.
- Serving on a Board of Directors for an organization that helps Black people if you don’t have personal relationships with the Black service participants.
- Having a relative that served in the Civil War for the Union.
- LIking Jazz.
- Liking Blues music
- Understanding that Black people are the creators of all American music.
- Participating in an anti-racism demonstration
- Mentoring “at-risk” Black youth, when you don’t know your own racism.
- Sharing an anti-racism post on facebook.
- Not being a White person.
- Knowing the latest popular Black group dance.
- Attending an anti-racist training.
- Being a Christian.
- Being a Democrat.
- Being Agnostic.
- Being a vegetarian.
- Being a raw food vegan.
- Doing yoga.
- Speaking Spanish.
- Sending your child to a school that has “some” non-White students.
- LIking tacos.
- Liking soul food.
- Doing anything with rescue pets.
- Acknowledging you have White privilege.
- Being poor.
- Hating Ann Coulter (everyone should hate her because she is the spawn of Satan.)
- Being Jewish.
- Being GLBTQQ+.
- Liking Oprah.
- Living above the Mason Dixon line.
- Choosing to live in Oak Park.
- Having a Black Lives Matter sign in the front of your home.
Whether or not you are racist or not racist, has almost zero to do with you, personally, or your personal beliefs.
Being anti-racist has 100% to do with your commitment to actually doing things to dismantle racism. Being a true non-racist person requires action, accountability and choosing to give up your white privilege and redistribute wealth and resources that were unfairly taken from Black folks by our racist system.
Don’t believe me? Google it.