The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a listening session. The goal was to hear public concerns about race and how the chamber can help affect lasting change.
Participants shared their personal stories of how they’ve been racially profiled.
A parent liaison from District 203 parent volunteer organization SUCCESS talked about an incident that happened to her last summer.
She’d called a Naperville restaurant ahead of time to reserve a table for six outside. When they arrived she said a manager tried to seat them in the back.
“When we sat down my 11-year-old said ‘I think she just didn’t want us to be at the front of the restaurant where people could see us,’” said Stephanie Hebron. “It didn’t fit the Naperville image and our family is reminded of this image every time we walk downtown.”
Naperville Public Library executive director, Dave Della Terza spoke about his experience at a Naperville day care his adopted, black daughter attended.
He and his husband were made aware of some behavior issues, but felt like she was behaving the same way as some of the other children there.
He said eventually they were told his daughter could no longer attend the school.
“Some of the parents were reluctant to talk to us, some of the administrators were just making excuses that seemed odd and off,” said Terza. “And you can’t put your finger on it. You can’t say this is racist, but it felt like it.”
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
Members of the NACC’s diversity, equity, and inclusion committee also provided their input, including the committee’s chair, Kim White.
“I was reminded of a store that I love. I was excited when it opened up in Downtown Naperville and I would frequent that store a couple of times and I was given ‘the look,’” said White. “And I’ve now chosen to take my business to that same store but in Oak Brook because I’m not given that “look” at that store.”
Role of Businesses
Mayor Steve Chirico believes businesses have a role in implementing change.
“Businesses have a very unique responsibility to be a part of these solutions and a social responsibility in how they treat their employees, how they treat their customers,” said Chirico.
One community member suggested that businesses could put up a sticker in their front windows with a statement of inclusivity.
She further added owners could ask staff to wear a bracelet that shows their support to be racially inclusive.
Other suggestions included making sure there’s a conversation with members of cultural communities to get their input, creating a cultural center, and looking at curriculums and sensitivity training at schools.
The NACC will send out a survey to participants to hear about more ideas and solutions.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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