The mayor of suburban Mokena is facing controversy over mailers sent out supporting his candidacy, which depict the pseudoscience of phrenology.
The mailers were sent out shortly after racist graffiti was found spray-painted all over a Mokena park, causing residents to call for action in combating racism in the community.
Mark Cerkvenik told NBC 5 he received the flyer in his mailbox two weeks ago and couldn’t believe the message.
“It references phrenology and it said something along the lines 'they have a one- track mind' and they had a graphic head that’s very common in phrenology,” he said. “Phrenology has a really dark past. It really goes back to the 19th century and was used by slave holders and abolitionist really talk about African Americans and how they’re tamed and they want to be tamed.”
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The mailer about taxpayer dollars was sent out by the group Friends of Mokena. The group is urging voters to support a slate of five candidates running for office including Mayor Frank Fleischer.
(Warning: the following video may contain images that are offensive to some viewers)
Cerkvenik took his concerns to the board meeting Monday night where he said he was shut down by the mayor during public comment.
The mayor can be heard off camera saying, “you can not go into politics if you’re up there (at the podium).”
“What I’m doing is not political what I’m doing is to bring this racist talk, this racism document to light," Cerkvenik then responded.
Another woman spoke during public comment and asked if the council could develop a resolution to address racism in the community.
"If you would consider working with the Chief of Police to develop a resolution that would support everybody in Mokena and tear down this hatred that we're starting to see," she said.
The controversy comes as Mokena police are investigating after racist graffiti was found over the weekend at Prairie Ridge Park.
“My jaw hit the ground,” said Mokena resident Rebecca Howey. “I couldn’t believe how much there was how racist it was how profane it was it was unbelievably disgusting.”
Howey said her daughter was at the park with her friend when she came across the racist graffiti on the basketball court and baseball field.
“The hate in the heart with using the n-word (and) the swastika and certainly that’s been boiling for a while, but these people also were paying attention to the current climate and decided to include another group in their hatred,” she said.
Pictures provided by Howey show hate speech and racial slurs against the LGBTQ, the Asian, and the Black communities. Howey said the clean up cost the Mokena Park District could total $15,000.
“It [racism] doesn’t belong in society period, and we as a neighborhood and Mokena in general is not going to put up with it,” said Howey. “There clearly are people everywhere that have different beliefs and there’s nothing illegal about having your own beliefs, but if they are racist or homophobic or derogatory you need to keep them to yourself.”
Friends of Mokena issued a statement to NBC 5:
“First and foremost, the Friends of Mokena team condemn – in the strongest terms – all racism and hateful language of any kind in any form. They have no place in our community or our society. The purpose of the mailer in question, was to find an illustration or visual that would communicate how our team keeps foremost in our minds, the taxpayers of our village and doing what is right for them. Putting the village hall on their side. We are immensely proud of our accomplishments."
When asked why the phrenology imagery was chosen as the basis for the political mailer, the group responded that they wanted to "offer up a visual that communicated our laser-like focus on doing what is right for Mokena taxpayers.
"Research shows that while some people in the 1800’s did manipulate and mold the discipline to fit twisted theories, there were many others who used the science to support abolishing slavery and promote racial equality," the group said. "Having said that, we want to emphasize once again that our team collectively finds racism and hate in any form abhorrent, (and) that we would never resort to those kinds of tactics ever."