Quick Hits – Elgin needs to work on conscious bias, too!

Quick Hits – Elgin needs to work on conscious bias, too!

If, like me, you had the misfortune of reading the Daily Herald’s recent report on the status of Elgin’s diversity program and subsequent unconscious bias training, then, like me, you’re clearly more confused than ever.

How that reporter can so consistently get it wrong – right down to restaurant names – is beyond baffling. But I suppose we should give her credit for a unique kind of effort and consistency.

To fill in those background blanks, diversity consultant Denise Baretto, a real piece of work, engaged in the kind of inauspicious social media commentary that should’ve had her ass summarily canned. But since race relations is a touchy topic in The City in the Suburbs these days, her company remains employed.


To be more specific, one of Baretto’s utterly unconscionable posts read, “If white women tried as hard to eliminate white supremacy as they try to lose weight, white supremacy would be ended.” Because all white women are fat and oblivious, right? And suddenly we’re all white supremacists, too!

I’m thinking the term “white privilege” would have been a wee bit more appropriate.

Not one to rest on her social media laurels, Baretto added, “We interrupt our amazing #fashionweek to officially tell people mad about Kap, Nike etc. to fuck yourselves.”

Nice! I’m thinking Ms. Baretto is the perfect choice to write an updated edition of “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” “Kap,” of course, was shorthand for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

In that same piece, Baretto told the Daily Herald that she’s “being more careful with swear words on social media.” Ya think? That certainly makes her a leading candidate for The First Ward’s annual “Keen Perception of the Obvious” award.

As to the white women post, Baretto added, “I understand that people were offended, and I get it, but calling out racism is not racism. They are not equivalent.” No, they’re not! Because what she said – as an Elgin diversity consultant – is exponentially worse. At least unconscious biases are just that, unconscious. But Ms. Baretto left no doubt as to whether she’s a conscious racist.

Since no one could possibly make heads or tails of that DH article, I had an enlightening conversation with Elgin Communications Specialist, Molly Center. She explained that one of Baretto’s associates was finishing up the unconscious bias training wrapping up on 12/10, and her company’s contract with the city expires on 12/31.

I asked Center whether Elgin would rehire Baretto and she said, “One of our goals is supplier diversity, so issuing an RFP is always a possibility when considering new contracts, but that would be a council decision.” That’s code for, no, they won’t be bringing her back.

Upon offering my theory that, since EPD officer Jason Lentz was fired for a much milder social media post, wasn’t Baretto’s continued employment a double standard, I didn’t get much of a response, which was probably the correct response.

Reading between the lines with a number of off-the-record Elgin insiders, it would seem that, in the era of the Cynthia DeClements shooting, high level administrators are particularly nervous about Traci Elli’s reaction to that kind of firing.

Of course, Traci Ellis is the former disgraced U-46 school board member, self-appointed spokesperson for black folks everywhere, fiction author, and the woman who compared the American flag to toilet paper. Ellis does have a small, but very vocal posse who did their damndest to commandeer Wednesday’s city council meeting over an utterly untrue rumor (we’ll discuss that on Monday).

So, while I was about to chide Elgin for their disturbing lack of cojones in this regard, as my crazy-ass mother liked to say, “Discretion is always the better part of valor.” Perhaps letting Baretto simply fade away is the wiser choice, after all.

Meanwhile, I’m going to, once again, call on my favorite Illinois City (please don’t tell Aurora) to drop this unconscious bias training bullshit once and for all. Even if done correctly, it only puts folks directly into a bunker mentality that destroys staff morale, and it only makes them further dig in.

Not to mention that, as this diversity training debacle clearly demonstrates, it only supplants one set of unconscious biases with another.

9 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Elgin needs to work on conscious bias, too!

  1. I think unconscious bias is a thing. How it can be addressed by “training,” or even whether it should be, is another matter entirely IMO.

    The city of Elgin, like any other employer, can and should concern itself only with people’s words and actions. If an employee says or does something inappropriate or offensive, from a racial or any other standpoint, take the appropriate corrective action. Otherwise, leave it alone. You’re there to get people to do their best work for the taxpayers, not to police their thoughts, attitudes or even biases.

  2. You are right just let her fade away. Lot less problems, legal and financial for the city. Fortunately she does not have a long contract and if they fired her probably have a non disclosure clause
    Anyway it always fascinated me what people say on social media. I would think especially if I was applying for like a social worker or counselor or teacher it would make business sense not to have those comments available anywhere. Sorta like applying for job and saying a job is a requirement of my parole. It raises issues

    1. Jim,

      Exactly! A couple of years ago people were goading Chairman Chis Lauzen into creating a Twitter account, and he asked me if he should do it.

      My rapid response was, “What could possibly go wrong with broadcasting 144 characters of your thoughts mere seconds after they were formulated?”

      And he agreed!


  3. Diversity Consultant is a title for a person that cannot actually produce or has no viable skill to produce or construct.

    It’s like a party liaison for the old Soviet Union military which was the guy or gal that could not do anything but tattle on others.

    Utterly useless and costs money. Welcome to the new university degrees that followed basket weaving.

  4. Just two years ago the Elgin city council held a council meeting where this consultant made a presentation about diversity and her future contract. That meeting was intentionally blacked out to the public and no city hall cameras were allowed. I would have liked to have seen it archived to hear what questions were asked, if any, by the council and what exactly she said in her presentation.

    1. Danise,

      I have issues with two black women in Elgin and one is already gone.

      And for someone who regularly reads my stuff to say I have issues with women is more than disingenuous. To wit, Wednesday’s Quick Hits set the record straight on the hypocrisy of Republicans attacking State Rep Stephanie Kifowit. I endorsed Lauren Underwood.

      On the 26th I defend Sarah Michelle Gellar from the liberal Taliban. I’m waging a battle right now to get 200 pages of sexual harassment complaints from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office who let a prosecutor completely run wild.

      I helped get a brilliant female Geneva School Board member elected. I’ve taken on Judge John Dalton for the abysmal way he treats women, and especially minority women. I’m still the only journalist who’s gotten the real Delnor story regarding an incredibly brave nurse.

      Before she went off the deep end, I contributed quite a bit to Traci Ellis’ school board campaign. I wholeheartedly supported Ana Lalley for Elgin Police Chief. And I’ve defended public breast feeding.

      On occasion you agree with my columns, but when you don’t you inevitably accuse me of some sort of bigotry. I’d call that conscious bias!


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