Teacher Supports the Platform of Tolerance, Transparency, Inclusion and Social Justice in June 4 Primary Election

Dear Editor:

I’m a partner and mother, an author and editor, a teacher and,
occasionally, when I can get it right, a mentor. I didn’t anticipate
that I’d ever help on the fringes of a local election campaign; yet
suddenly, my yard is sporting a sign, and my kids set off on a
canvasing adventure while I nursed a baby. They returned with
predictable reactions: my older, more introverted son needed to
recover, and my younger, more social son wanted to know when he could
do that again. And early in the campaign, because Monique and I work
together as teachers of the blind and visually impaired, I wrote the
following endorsement, by which I still stand, but which, now I
realize, almost too late, lacks the personal:

“Monique is a community minded individual who truly believes in
equality and equity in all services and experiences. The activities
she organizes foster tolerance and inclusion and help people to
understand what we all share. She deeply believes in social justice
for everyone, especially for those people for whom life can be
particularly challenging. She always works hard to ensure that those
who live on the margins are invited into the center of the
conversation. Her commitment to equality, coupled with Austin’s
passionate work with people who are formerly incarcerated, working
class people, and the LGBTQ community will ensure that all of the
diverse voices and experiences of Highland Park carry equal weight in
all governing decisions.”

Shortly after the endorsement was posted, a friend tactfully reminded
me that the current administration has done a lot for accessibility.
Oh, did I mention that my husband and I are blind? I hate conflict,
sometimes even healthy conflict, so I agreed that yes, the current
administration has done a lot for accessibility: I can now read my
town emails without worrying that I’ve missed something, and I
understand that there is some work to improve the borough website,
which I appreciate. Finally, The Arts Commission is working on a
project which incorporates the voices of people with disabilities of
which I am a part. I also truly appreciate this. No sarcasm here, I

But ever since the troubling racial profiling incident took place last
year, I’ve become, for better or for worse, a single-issue voter. The
profiling itself was troubling; I can’t imagine what living in fear
after it must have been like, but the responses from those in power,
the interruptions and digressions, the confusion about what action was
being taken, if any, made me reconsider. Oh, did I mention my kids are
biracial? Actually I can imagine, a little, what living in fear must
have been like. Because if my older son were a decade older, would he
have seemed suspicious if he were standing still with a phone? If it
comes to a choice between being able to read my email and knowing my
children will feel safe as teenagers, you can probably guess which one
I’d pick.

In many ways, our community is a terrific place to live. Blind parents
in many places fear retribution for parenting, but by and large,
people here accept this as a matter of course. But I still worry, as
all parents do, about what will happen as our kids grow up.

I’m voting for transparency, accountability and change. I’m voting for
a politician who I know will turn to the community for suggestions
when times get tough, a mentor who gets it right, a teacher whom I
know can examine her own biases and can help all of us to do the same.
Maybe I’ll be able
both to read the emails and to feel that the police and the community
have truly come together.

But no matter who wins this election, I hope that in its aftermath,
the “two sides,” which represent a multitude of individual voices and
concerns, can move away from the national pattern of entrenching in
the deep divisions which characterize our nation. Our small town
shares so much that I hope, when this election is over, we can come
together to make a more emotionally healthy Highland Park for all of
its residents.


Kristen Witucki

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