Naperville leader calls for Stava-Murray's resignation over 'white supremacist policies' comments

 
 
Updated 2/5/2019 11:20 PM
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  • Anne Stava-Murray, who won election to the 81st District seat in the state House of Representatives after emerging as a leader of a Naperville group spawned from the women's march, speaks during an interview with the Daily Herald in Schaumburg.

      Anne Stava-Murray, who won election to the 81st District seat in the state House of Representatives after emerging as a leader of a Naperville group spawned from the women's march, speaks during an interview with the Daily Herald in Schaumburg. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Several council members and public speakers in Naperville rose in defense of their hometown Tuesday after state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray described Naperville as a city with a "history of white supremacist policies."

Council member Kevin Coyne called for Stava-Murray to step down from her seat representing the 81st District, which includes parts of Naperville, saying she "has a fundamental misunderstanding of both the Naperville community and what it means to represent a constituency."

Council member Benjamin White spoke up as the only black member of the council, recounting his family's experiences in town and calling for constructive efforts to address ways in which racial biases occasionally come to the forefront.

"I don't believe Naperville is a community with white supremacist policies. However, that does not mean Naperville is immune to the ills of bias and discrimination," White said. "To believe so would be a fallacy."

And Walter Johnson, a Naperville resident who said he was the first black member of the city's board of fire and police commissioners as well as the first black president of the Exchange Club of Naperville, said Naperville should look toward what it can improve in race relations instead of dwelling in the past.

"If we were really a community that was that racist, or a community of white supremacists, there would be no way I could stand here and say to you, 'This is my hometown,'" Johnson said. "This community has elevated me and my family and has embraced me and people I know."

These public statements came more than a month after Stava-Murray, a 32-year-old Democrat, responded to a woman's post on Facebook with a message that said she is working to change what she sees as the city's "history of white supremacist policies."

She later pointed to what she calls racial profiling during traffic stops, questionable police hiring, discrimination in housing and home showings, largely white teacher populations, high rates of black student suspensions and low rates of black student enrollment in advanced placement courses as evidence of "white ignorance" in Naperville policies.

Stava-Murray said she has no plans to step down after what she described as Coyne's attempt to cause further division by revisiting her comments. She said he "has no genuine intention" behind "his continued escalation of the situation."

"Councilman Coyne continuously tries to take this political hit on me," Stava-Murray said. "It seems so partisan and unhelpful to the whole discussion."

What could help, White said, is a series of forums the city plans to host "to bring our community together to start conversations." Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico described the idea as something of a "diversity council" in the works.

White said both of his children endured racist comments from classmates as they progressed through schools in Naperville, but he believes city leaders can use their voices to help stop such hurtful words.

"These are isolated incidents and in no way paint our city as being racist," White said. "I have observed leaders and residents in our community step up soundly to address these issues to provide understanding so that all people will become better."

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