Label His Words as Racist

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published October 3, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

Arlington needs strong and courageous leadership from our Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Select Board and Acting Chief of Police Flaherty to unite and heal the community in response to Lt. Pedrini’s racist, xenophobic and hateful writings. In that spirit I ask Adam Chapdelaine, with the support of the SB and ACP, to write a letter to the community in which he unequivocally labels Lt. Pedrini’s words as racist, clearly explains why those words are racist, calls for unity and community conversation and thanks residents for working to make Arlington a better place for ALL.

By labeling Lt. Pedrini’s words as racist and explaining why, the TM will give us a common starting point and a common vocabulary to use to as we engage with each other on this difficult issue. Why is this important? In their article “Learning the Language of Racism,” psychologists Dr. Kanter and Dr. Rosen explain “Language empowers action… Learning… new language gives us access to understanding both the world around us and our own internal experiences. It is a starting place for engaging in meaning dialogue with others… Words are powerful, and our understanding of those words is often our entry point to meaningful engagement.”

Talking about racism is hard. My generation grew up specifically taught NOT to talk about skin color, to be “color blind.” So, I get it. Labeling words as racist is uncomfortable, calling someone racist seems too confrontational. We have a natural tendency to avoid uncomfortable or confrontational things. They make us feel defensive, guilty and hopeless. So, we do the easy thing, nothing. We excuse it or use weak words to confront it. However, with the problem clearly labeled, a common language and permission to talk about uncomfortable topics, we can begin to do the hard work, to have the hard conversations and to find a path forward.

In the New York Times OpEd “Denying Racism Supports It,” Charles Blow writes “Make no mistake: Denying racism or refusing to call it out is also racist. You cannot claim to be egalitarian and anti-racism and choose to be closeted… in your community for fear of rejection and ostracism… to keep the peace. There is no peace for the targets of racism, so your choosing of personal comfort and the comfort of racists supports the commission of racial injury.”

Adam, please label it.

Elizabeth Dray
Jason Street