Acknowledge our part in systemic racism

Updated 7/14/2020 12:21 PM

Recently, many Arlington Heights residents have been saddened to see acts of overt racism happening in our neighborhoods. Hate messaging graffitied on public spaces. Small-minded comments on message boards and social media posts. However, Arlington Heights has actually played a significant role in the history of systemic racism.

In the early 1970s, the village voted down a proposal to build multi-unit housing near St. Viator High School. Community members responded to the plans as you might expect a white community then to respond, fearing properties would be devalued, traffic and parking would become congested, and a way of life would be disrupted. The would-be developers and a handful of citizens brought legal action against the village to argue that their decision was discriminatory and those against the project were at times "motivated by opposition to minority groups."


By 1977, appeals to this case arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the ruling upheld the village's decision on the grounds that the intent was not to discriminate even if the actual effect of the decision would ultimately prove discriminatory. The precedent established by the Arlington Heights v. MHDC ruling has since influenced a number of other federal cases dealing with racial and social issues.

My own family moved to Arlington Heights in 1982. My husband and I recently bought a home in the same neighborhood. Due to this ruling, how many young families were not afforded the same opportunities we have enjoyed? How many kids my age did NOT grow up with all the benefits afforded in this community? How many people are instead STILL caught in a cycle of under-resourcing?

Knowing that acts of intolerance have long been present in our community, the citizens of Arlington Heights now need to do our part in acknowledging and rectifying our role in systemic racism.

Elaine Petricca Schreck

Arlington Heights

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