Racist comments hurled at Palestinian Muslim DuPage Township Trustee during public meeting

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Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Racist comments hurled at DuPage Township trustee during public meeting
Palestinian and Muslim DuPage Township Trustee Reem Townsend was faced with racist comments at a public meeting recently.

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- A DuPage Township trustee said she is feeling empowered after being faced with racist comments at a public meeting.

Reem Townsend said it happened on April 6, in a meeting to discuss a proposed food pantry and resource center. She was addressing an upset constituent when a man next to him could be heard saying, "Well, [I] didn't know that she was a suicide bomber."

Townsend, a Muslim and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was shocked.

"I felt like this was an attack on being Palestinian," she said. "It was like, demonizing me and like, as if he's trying to make me not like I'm a real person."

She said the comments didn't end there. The upset constituent she had been addressing earlier then made a statement himself.

"As I was answering one of his statements, he said, 'Oh, you just go back to eating your lunch,'" she recalled.

Townsend, who was observing Ramadan at the time, had broken her fast during the meeting and addressed the constituent directly.

"I was able to stand up and say 'excuse me, it's Ramadan. I don't eat up eat from sunup to sundown. When we eat this late it means we only eat one meal a day and I'm going to eat my food," she said.

Since then, Townsend has received an outpouring of support, including a personal call over the weekend from Governor JB Pritzker.

"He just called to tell me how sorry and how awful that is. And you know, not to let this bring me down, but more people support me and he asked me what he can do to support me," Townsend said.

Prtizker tweeted a statement Monday, saying in part, "I commend Trustee Townsend for her bravery and perseverance in the face of such attacks, and stand by her and other Muslim and Palestinian Illinoisans calling for an end to the hateful rhetoric perpetuated against their communities."

"I just hope that like other Muslims and other Palestinians don't see this and get discouraged," Townsend said. "And I'm not going to let this hold me back from anything."

The DuPage Township board has since said if anyone makes comments like that again, they will be removed from the meeting and won't be allowed back.