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Race-baiting makes her point hard to hear

Opinion: Columns

March 12th, 2019 1:28 PM

By Peter Preston

One View

In her puzzling and hypocritical piece titled, "White women in Oak Park are not in danger" [Viewpoints, Feb. 27], ShaRhonda Knott Dawson begins by appealing to "those who actually care about the facts and statistics," but she immediately abandons facts or statistics to attack "white women in Oak Park." The thrust of her argument is that "white women in Oak Park" are constantly calling police because they fear black men. This is stereotyping, and it's exactly what she accuses the "white women in Oak Park" of doing.

Ms. Dawson is surprised that the just-released 2018 statistics from the Oak Park Police Department show 1,650 investigated crimes, and 66,286 calls to the police. She thinks that is a lot of calls, and from that she springs to the conclusion that "white women in Oak Park" think they are "in danger from black men/black children." Indeed, she says, it is the "white women in Oak Park [who] are dangerous."

First, should we even be surprised at the ratio of crimes investigated to the total number of calls for service? I don't know if that's a lot of calls or not, but neither does Ms. Dawson. The police department's report shows the number of calls for service has been basically flat since 2016. The police don't say that they think it is a lot of calls. 

Second, and more importantly, how does Ms. Dawson get from A to B? She directly and without evidence equates calls for service to "a white woman feeling scared." According to the Census Bureau (as of July 1, 2017), about half of Oak Park's residents are men and about one-third are non-white. I don't see any statistics from the police department on the demographics of their callers, but it is not a stretch to think that the department gets calls from men, and maybe some calls from non-white women, too, or that some calls, regardless of their source, were about things other than fear of a black man (noise complaints, abandoned cars, loose dogs, etc.). She offers no reason for equating however many calls the police receive to the white women of Oak Park living in terror of black men.

Injustice surely exists in Oak Park, as it does everywhere. To address the problem, we need to do a better job of listening to each other; especially to those with different world views than our own. Maybe Ms. Dawson's point was to ask the "white women in Oak Park" to think about whether they might be baselessly afraid of black men, and, if true, to consider the consequences of that to the subjects of their fear. That might have been a useful discussion. But instead, Ms. Dawson's race-baiting abandonment of reason and facts in this piece is counter-productive and makes it hard to hear her.

Peter Preston is proud to live in Oak Park with his wife and daughter.

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  • Les Golden (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 14th, 2019 8:34 PM

    Would anybody mind if a family from subcontinent India moved next door? Their skin is black. They have a distinctive manner of speech. They dress differently than European descendants. Perhaps it's not the color of skin. Perhaps it's not the distinctive manner of speech. Perhaps it's not the different dress code. Would anybody mind if a family from subcontinent India moved next door?

  • Jason Cohen (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 14th, 2019 3:57 PM

    @Aaron, this isn't a question of the existence of racism in OP. I have personally witnessed racism here and some of the comments in that thread certainly had racist undertones but that's not really the issue. It's simply not ok to make up facts just because you really want your point to be true. What if this article was instead about how we should really watch out for black males in our community because it's clear by the number of calls to the police there's a real issue. This isn't true and the data doesn't support this argument but I guess that's not an issue. Clearly this is an issue and if we want to actually resolve real issues we need to use facts not made up thoughts masquerading as facts. This also alienates an entire group of people for no reason at all. Do we want support or to push away white females in this community? It does no good to push away the many many white females that want to help. There's also the fact that she doesn't even live here which makes the whole idea that she can assume something from this limited info even more ridiculous.

  • Alex Garcia (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 14th, 2019 7:39 AM

    Ms. Dawson is simply trying to deflect from the fact that Cook County and Oak Park have very real violent crime problems that affect people of all colors, shapes and sizes every day.

  • Michael O'Malley from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 13th, 2019 11:05 AM

    Mr. McManus, you might want to look up the word Gaslighting. It is a tactic used by people, all kinds of people, to manipulate others. You would have Mr. Preston rethink his conclusion of Ms. Knott-Dawson's poorly thought out opinion piece and admit he is a racist. How about a little logic and honesty? Please?

  • Aaron McManus from Oak park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 13th, 2019 10:17 AM

    Peter, it seems like you heard the message just fine. Does the absence of phone call demographics truly bother you *more* than systemic racism? It doesn't seem like you missed her point at all or that it was "hard to listen" - it comes across loud and clear that you're uncomfortable being stereotyped. Why did you put your effort towards criticism of a black woman working against racism? Your actions will speak louder than words. Especially when pointed in the right direction. Why not do something to help confront systemic racism instead of nitpicking? You mention the need to listen to others... yet you blame them for your own inability to listen. Any real anti racism work begins within ourselves. Please understand that your attempt to fact check a black woman on racism can be seen as a form of white supremacy?" it's like you're stating that you are the one who determines the validity of her statements. Instead, you can easily phrase yourself as being inspired by her piece and wanting to build on it by asking the questions you feel we as Oak Park need to be asking ourselves. But i would encourage you to do a lot more listening before you dive in, there's a lot of great work that's already been done here. It's pretty easy to do the stereotypical white guy thing of barging into something you've never done and interrupt the people doing it to let them know why they're doing it wrong. We can do better than that. I would encourage you to try.

  • Aaron McManus from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 13th, 2019 10:16 AM

    Peter, it seems like you heard the message just fine. Does the absence of phone call demographics truly bother you *more* than systemic racism? It doesn't seem like you missed her point at all or that it was "hard to listen" - it comes across loud and clear that you're uncomfortable being stereotyped. Why did you put your effort towards criticism of a black woman working against racism? Your actions will speak louder than words. Especially when pointed in the right direction. Why not do something to help confront systemic racism instead of nitpicking? You mention the need to listen to others... yet you blame them for your own inability to listen. Any real anti racism work begins within ourselves. Please understand that your attempt to fact check a black woman on racism can be seen as a form of white supremacy?" it's like you're stating that you are the one who determines the validity of her statements. Instead, you can easily phrase yourself as being inspired by her piece and wanting to build on it by asking the questions you feel we as Oak Park need to be asking ourselves. But i would encourage you to do a lot more listening before you dive in, there's a lot of great work that's already been done here. It's pretty easy to do the stereotypical white guy thing of barging into something you've never done and interrupt the people doing it to let them know why they're doing it wrong. We can do better than that. I would encourage you to try.

  • Aaron McManus from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 13th, 2019 10:15 AM

    Peter, it seems like you heard the message just fine. Does the absence of phone call demographics truly bother you *more* than systemic racism? It doesn't seem like you missed her point at all or that it was "hard to listen" - it comes across loud and clear that you're uncomfortable being stereotyped. Why did you put your effort towards criticism of a black woman working against racism? Your actions will speak louder than words. Especially when pointed in the right direction. Why not do something to help confront systemic racism instead of nitpicking? You mention the need to listen to others... yet you blame them for your own inability to listen. Any real anti racism work begins within ourselves. Please understand that your attempt to fact check a black woman on racism can be seen as a form of white supremacy?" it's like you're stating that you are the one who determines the validity of her statements. Instead, you can easily phrase yourself as being inspired by her piece and wanting to build on it by asking the questions you feel we as Oak Park need to be asking ourselves. But i would encourage you to do a lot more listening before you dive in, there's a lot of great work that's already been done here. It's pretty easy to do the stereotypical white guy thing of barging into something you've never done and interrupt the people doing it to let them know why they're doing it wrong. We can do better than that. I would encourage you to try.

  • Aaron McManus from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: March 13th, 2019 10:14 AM

    Peter, it seems like you heard the message just fine. Does the absence of phone call demographics truly bother you *more* than systemic racism? It doesn't seem like you missed her point at all or that it was "hard to listen" - it comes across loud and clear that you're uncomfortable being stereotyped. Why did you put your effort towards criticism of a black woman working against racism? Your actions will speak louder than words. Especially when pointed in the right direction. Why not do something to help confront systemic racism instead of nitpicking? You mention the need to listen to others... yet you blame them for your own inability to listen. Any real anti racism work begins within ourselves. Please understand that your attempt to fact check a black woman on racism can be seen as a form of white supremacy?" it's like you're stating that you are the one who determines the validity of her statements. Instead, you can easily phrase yourself as being inspired by her piece and wanting to build on it by asking the questions you feel we as Oak Park need to be asking ourselves. But i would encourage you to do a lot more listening before you dive in, there's a lot of great work that's already been done here. It's pretty easy to do the stereotypical white guy thing of barging into something you've never done and interrupt the people doing it to let them know why they're doing it wrong. We can do better than that. I would encourage you to try.

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