Push for action against racism continues in Naperville
Recognizing Naperville leaders for the words they've spoken and written against racism, activists now are pushing for more action.
City officials say they are expecting a report from staff members next month about how to create a human rights commission and follow other steps from a set of diversity and inclusion recommendations approved in May.
The city plans to implement implicit bias training and diversity recruiting enhancements for city staff members, engage with community groups to further equity and inclusion efforts, and join a national group called GARE, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.
With assistance from a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice, the city has been developing these recommendations since last fall. The outreach came after episodes of racism reported at a Naperville restaurant and a school drew national attention.
Add the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in an "increase in anti-Asian sentiment across the country," according to a resolution the council approved last month, and the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked protests and calls for police reform, and some feel Naperville needs to put more than words toward efforts to improve.
Meena Banasiak, speaking to city council members during a virtual meeting Tuesday, said she's encouraged by signs saying "Hate Has No Home Here" or "Black Lives Matter," which she has seen in some places around town.
"We also suspect these values of equity, inclusiveness and anti-racism are not fully pervasive within every square mile of our community," Banasiak said.
She called on the city council to add a statement about diversity and inclusion to its list of four "ends policies"; to set performance management goals related to diversity; and to track them with a dashboard on the open data portal. She asked to see "what real, quantifiable progress" is made toward equity and inclusion; how all stakeholders are participating; and how well stakeholders are achieving the desired outcomes.
City council member John Krummen said he agrees with the spirit of Banasiak's ideas. Council member Theresa Sullivan said no matter how the city tracks its diversity and inclusion work, it will be "real" and "from the heart."
"It's something that as a council we all believe in, and it's not lip service," she said.
Council member Benjamin White said residents are asking him what they can do to help overcome racism. He advised residents to call out racism when they see it, even within their "inner circle," and to use podcasts or books to become educated.
"There's no magic answer out there," White said. "But every little step, every little bit helps."
City council member Patty Gustin said openness and willingness to befriend neighbors who are different also goes a long way.
Mayor Steve Chirico said the moment should serve as a call to action -- and especially as a call to vote.
"I do think that people are awakened," he said, "and I hope that we can use that energy for positive change."