Neutrality is Not an Option

march to madisonLocal activists are calling on businesses in the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park communities to specifically denounce discrimination in their establishments. Facebook is making it easy to do so.

Following a resident’s recent negative experience at a local business, the hyperlocal online communities lit up with people sharing experiences. Many posters described discrimination in local businesses against customers, especially people of color. A major theme is the existence of silent racism throughout suburbia versus the overt racism we associate with cities.

Resident and OPRF high school teacher Anthony Clark stepped forward to lead a local awareness-building campaign.  He organized a peaceful march last Saturday night through the three communities.  The well-attended march embraced national themes of equity, unity and justice but pointedly called on our business community to take responsibility for customer service equity.  He created the Facebook group “Suburban Unity Pledge” through which people can pledge commitment to equity and non-discrimination:

“By being a member of this group, I hereby agree to hold myself accountable and not remain neutral in the fight for equality. I recognize that while progress has been made, various forms of discrimination still negatively impact my community. I pledge to treat others how I would want to be treated and utilize my group membership to create empathy and collaboration. I recognize the overall goal of this group is to use collaborations to create communities where equality is a reality.”

Business owners interested in signing the above pledge do so by joining the closed group on Facebook.  Click “join” and the organizer will add you to the group.  Then, post a comment asking that your business be added to the list. The group can be found at: facebook.com/groups/suburbanunitypledge

The team plans to have unity-themed stickers available soon for all businesses who have signed the pledge to display in their windows.  There is no cost to businesses to join the movement – but there are definite expectations.  You are agreeing to participate and hold your business up to the highest standards of equity and justice.

It’s a tall order.  But doing nothing is a choice, too.  Neutrality is no longer an option.

#suburbanUNITYpledge #morelovelesshate #blacklivesmatter

This post also appears on the Chamber’s blog at www.oakpark.com

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