Creating Safe Communities

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published December 5, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

Approximately 50 people gathered at First Parish Unitarian Universalist for “Creating Safe Communities,” organized by Arlington Fights Racism, facilitated by Dr. Rick Pinderhughes of Visions Inc. (which is conducting the bias evaluation of the Arlington Police Department), and co-sponsored by Arlington’s Diversity Task Group, Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project, and the ArCS Cluster. AFR plans more such events as we work to reach additional Arlington residents, seeking to understand the state of our community today. Participants included everyone from longtime residents to the very newest, with the majority representing groups harmed by Lt. Pedrini’s words. Some members of the Arlington Human Rights Commission and one Select Board member also participated.

When town leaders learned that AFR organizers had brought in Dr. Pinderhughes with their own resources, they demonstrated their support by paying his fee on our behalf. They also sent a letter of support and, respecting our wishes, they were not present at the event.

Dr. Pinderhughes opened the event by explaining the norms and guidelines of this community forum and how to create a “brave” space. Some came to speak about how they have directly experienced racism, prejudice and bias in Arlington. Some came to express their fears and concerns for our and our children’s future. Some came to share stories of people they know who did not yet feel safe to tell their own stories. Some came to respectfully listen, to gain a greater understanding of their neighbors. All were promised that their words would be held in anonymity and that they could speak without fear of reprisals. The group then came back together to share closing thoughts on how to address these harms. Recommendations included: holding public shows of support for the marginalized; continuing to push town leaders for open, transparent communication regarding the work being done with APD; requiring Lt. Pedrini to publicly address those he’s harmed; asking town leaders to acknowledge, in order to avoid setting precedents for other towns, that this restorative justice process was seriously flawed; and requiring the town to create a clear policy for all town employees about hate speech on social media.

This process of understanding how members of our community have been harmed is ongoing; we do not expect quick, easy answers to our problems. AFR will continue its efforts to build trust through reaching out to the community. Please visit our website, www.ArlingtonFightsRacism.com, for more information.

Lynette Martyn
Eustis Street

Self-Reflection Needed to Fight Hate

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published December 5, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

The hate that we are seeing around the country and the violence that follows is deeply disturbing. It is also disturbing to see that there are people in Arlington who think that Lt. Pedrini’s hate-filled words were a joke or tongue in cheek and rush to defend him. It might be hard to confront a friend or family member when they step out of line morally, but to avoid doing so is enabling them and depriving them of an opportunity to face the consequences of their actions and to grow. I don’t know of any religion that says that hate is OK, I don’t know of any code of conduct that says hate is OK. And yet when showing support to someone who spread hate and tearing down the very people who worked tirelessly to address it is what allows hate to continue, and gives the message that it is OK. It is not OK. Arlington Fights Racism is working to unite our town by addressing the harm done to our marginalized communities. Hate and indifference are dividing our town. How differently this might have turned out if the people who care about Rick Pedrini had helped him to see how his words hurt members of our community and offered him support to make it right. Perhaps there are people in town who share the same attitudes expressed by Pedrini. This is racism and is harmful to everyone, and surprisingly even to the person who harbors hateful thoughts. Racism and bias only keeps us separated from each other. We live in a racist country with a racist history so none of us avoids having some version of it. For white people to recover from our racism, we need to deeply examine the biases we hold and the values we hold and see if they are in line with each other. If we don’t do this self-reflective work, we are living in the dark and miss the opportunity to connect with the cross section of people who make up our community. The reality is that we have a rich and diverse country with people from all walks of life and all corners of the earth. We are a country of immigrants and the potential to break down barriers and learn about each other is endless. Arlington Fights Racism is encouraging people to talk with each other and seeking ways to make Arlington safe for all of its residents. Please join us if you would like to be part of this journey.

Lynette Culverhouse
Draper Avenue