Naperville officially denounces racism, moves toward inclusion action steps
A resolution is on the books and an action plan is in place celebrating diversity and denouncing all acts of racism, intolerance and discrimination in Naperville.
The steps come after several occasions of reported racist acts at schools, restaurants and gas stations in the city and after what the resolution calls an "increase in anti-Asian sentiment across the country caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."
City council members approved the resolution unanimously during a virtual meeting after hearing written comments from 10 residents and spoken statements from three others calling for public solidarity against racism. Speakers represented the Chinese, Japanese, Jewish and Latino communities.
"The most recent incidents concerning African Americans, and most recently, Asian American backlash, have sadly opened up new wounds, as I have felt that our city has been progressively moving toward greater acceptance of diversity," Naperville native Christine Simonson said in written comments read aloud during the meeting. "As Naperville continues to become more diverse, I feel it is necessary for everyone to embrace and respect everyone's differences."
The council also unanimously approved recommendations that call for implicit bias training and diversity recruiting enhancements for city staff members, development of a human relations commission, and engagement with community groups to further equity and inclusion.
City council members thanked Chinese community leader Nancy Chen Chen -- she reached out a month ago seeking a city denouncement of acts against Asian Americans -- and city council member Benny White for his creation of an inclusive discussion group called Naperville Neighbors United.
"We applaud your leadership in standing up against racism in all forms," Lucy Chen, board chairwoman of the The United Chinese Americans Illinois Chapter, said in written comments.
Resident Karen Peck said in written comments she is "saddened that such a resolution needs to be codified."
But a few residents in written comments shared stories of what Simonson described as "daily tormenting" based on her race, or what Jennifer Chen called "an ugly racial incident" at a football game.
"As much as I loved and benefited from the Naperville I grew up in, I am sad to say that I can still recall every act of discrimination I witnessed in our school," Chen said in written comments. "I do not wish these types of life lessons on any kid today. And that's why this resolution -- this commitment to our community, our kids, our families and our businesses -- will continue to bolster Naperville's strong reputation for being a place people choose to live."
Mayor Steve Chirico said it was sad but important to hear stories of past discriminatory treatment. He called the resolution and action steps denouncing racism "a long time coming."
White encouraged everyone to follow intent of the city actions by speaking up when improper treatment occurs.
"Step up and say something about it," White said. "Say, 'Hey, not in my town.'"