Editorial: Progress in the mission to reflect the diversity of the suburbs

  • Maha Ayesh, of Lombard, is a Bartlett police officer and the first Muslim female cop in the suburbs to wear a hijab.

    Maha Ayesh, of Lombard, is a Bartlett police officer and the first Muslim female cop in the suburbs to wear a hijab. Courtesy of Maha Ayesh

 
Posted10/22/2021 1:00 AM

The message here is not new. We've expressed it regarding teachers and police officers on other occasions:

Diversity is good.

 

For nearly half a century, the village of Oak Park has embraced it with a policy that reads, in part:

"We reject the notion of race as a barrier dividing us and we reject prejudicial behavior toward any group of people. ... The village of Oak Park commits itself to a future ensuring equal access, full participation in all of the village's institutions and programs, and equality of opportunity in all village operating policies."

That villagewide policy was updated two years ago with a pact the police department signed that includes: "Reject discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, color, nationality, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender, disability or familial status."

These are not just words.

Oak Park has long been a leader in recruiting and mentoring a police department with a racial makeup that hews closely to that of the people it serves and protects.

Other suburban departments have made strides along these lines, too, although more progress is needed.

We've expressed as well that it's important for teachers to reflect student enrollment. Some suburban districts have gone international in search of job candidates who can help fulfill that mission.

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But why is this important?

You might ask, aren't good teachers simply good teachers?

It's important, in part, because your children are likely to encounter teachers and police officers as authority figures more than most other government workers.

For any child's development, it's as important to learn about people with different cultural experiences in this ever-diversifying world as it is learning the subject matter.

And it's also important for young people to see themselves reflected in the people who guide them.

It's not limited to the color of one's skin or the language someone speaks, though both are important, but a sense of shared cultural experience that puts children at ease and more open to learning things.

Suburban Mosaic columnist Madhu Krishnamurthy this week profiled Maha Ayesh, a Palestinian-American woman from Lombard who became the suburbs' first Muslim female police officer who wears a hijab, the Islamic head covering.

What an inspiration she must be to Muslim girls who have encountered her as an officer in Bartlett or who have read her story.

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