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.