There’s a popular theory in fighting urban crime called “Broken Windows.” It suggests that if police and government pay attention to small issues — fare jumpers, graffiti, curfews — that an atmosphere of well-being and respect is created and the result is less serious criminal activity.
Likely this is the case, as the approach has been widely adopted.
Seems to us then that if, as a community, we were to actively address persistent, rankling instances of racial discrimination, insensitivity both conscious and unconscious, we would set a path where more blatant, systemic racism would become more clear and far less palatable to us.
Last Saturday a diverse group of some 150 locals marched from OPRF High School to the Madison Street business strip in Forest Park. The gathering was entirely peaceful and even aspirational though its origin was in a recent dispiriting encounter between patrons and a representative of a Madison Street bar, which centered on a request for ’90s hip-hop and a response that such music might attract a black audience.
This is a single, simple example of the grinding, debilitating disrespect that we far too often show each other. These are the day-by-day ways we create tension and distance in three communities — Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park — where we rightly take satisfaction in the 30,000-foot view of tolerance and inclusion.
The march was organized by Anthony Clark, a teacher at OPRF, and he has suggested that this effort might grow into a wider ongoing platform where such issues could be aired, where misunderstandings could be explored. Toward that end, a meeting between Clark and the bar owner was set to take place after press time this week. To his credit, Doc Ryan’s owner, Martin Sorice, has been candid in assessing how this situation unfolded and sharing that information openly on social media.
Our future together depends on a willingness to get off the defensive, to listen actively and talk honestly — and sometimes to march.
It is a good time for Forest Park to have a Diversity Commission. While its birthing was awkward and convoluted, the possibility exists that this commission could quickly become a vital touchstone, allowing Forest Parkers to finally have a good talk about race, class, diversity and inclusion.
The upset, spread so quickly over social media, about the encounter two weeks back at Doc Ryan’s (see above) demonstrates the value of having a group of sincere and active residents able to engage in such a topic.
Of course, it is incumbent on Mayor Anthony Calderone to move immediately to expand the commission beyond its initial seven-member, all-white composition. We hear there may well be African American residents who are considering putting their names forward for appointment. Please make this happen.
Forest Park has been tone deaf to the joys and the challenges of its own diversity over 30-plus years. Let’s move forward.