Oak Park: Discourses of Suburban Diversity
Stewart-Harris, Tyrell J.
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Oak Park: Discourses of Suburban Diversity explores how a pleasant, progressive, community dedicated to integration, anti-racist principles, and diversity, can continue to produce, reproduce, and utilize systems of racism. One of the main reasons for the continued production of racist disciplinary norms in Oak Park is that the community is constrained by its reliance on, and existence in, the middle of the different discourses, systems, and institutions of race, class, knowledge production, and power relations that influence life throughout the country. In other words, the goal of this project is to demonstrate the productive nature of moving beyond simply finding instances of racism and instead digging deeper into the interconnections of race, place, economic value, community, and population management. Additionally, this project is an attempt to complete a genealogy of “diversity” in Oak Park, which entails understanding diversity’s origins, development, and reciprocal relationship with residents, government, and the community’s discourse. Furthermore this project involves studying the systems of truth production that are necessary for diversity not only to play a role in community building, but also to become a relevant point of discussion and integral part of Oak Park’s identity. This work explores the argument that “diversity,” as a part of Oak Park’s integration process, became important because of the 1973 creation of the statement for “Maintaining Diversity in Oak Park,” which set in motion a variety of policies, funding options, and management regimes that exist as part of contemporary Oak Park. Oak Park exists in its current form because the local government was able to build a link between integration and increased property values and recast Oak Park’s anti-integration residents as outcasts who did not belong in the community. While this maneuver was innovative in the 1970s, without having continually adapted its methods for managing integration, Oak Park's government is at risk of losing the diversity and integration that has become integral to the community's identity and existence.