Letter to the Editor

I Support a Human Rights Committee

Dear Editor,

On June 2,  Town Manager Austin Faison felt the need to make a personal statement to the Town Council after the May 25 televised killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.  As “the only black person in the room for most of my life,” Faison said he was “tired” and unable to believe that “it is necessary to make a statement” requesting “some real change in how we interact with one another.  This includes a base level of respect between everyone, regardless of their background.”

Faison further described institutional racism when he said, “Unfortunately, people who look like me are disproportionately affected by a multitude of issues within our society.  It isn’t simply Covid-19, which is infecting us at a higher rate; nor police related incidents, where people are left dead after a misunderstanding or a minor offense, nor education, nor net worth, nor homelessness, nor a history of being oppressed.  It is all those things bearing down on a community simultaneously.”

“That is why people say black lives matter…not because they matter more, but simply because they want you to remember that they do in fact matter,” the Town Manager said.    Faison closed not condoning violence of any kind, but a need for things to change.

I later learned that some of our Winthrop residents labeled the Town Manager’s request as “a rant” and that he should just “do his job.”  Along with others, I emailed our Town Council, Council President, and Police Chief supporting Austin Faison’s plea for “real change in how we interact with one another.”

I noted that it was a sorrowful day when I viewed George Floyd in a fatal choke hold, a form of lynching, on national television.  The incident was an “in your face” message of what hate, racism, and violence has done in our country and in the world.

I also wrote what a bad mark that incident and others like it have on good police officers who appropriately respond to incidents of violence, domestic violence, mental illness, and basic disruption of safety in our communities.  These men and women take their own lives in their hands before entering dangerous situations, particularly domestic violence situations.  I have personally witnessed appropriate Winthrop police intervention with disruptive gatherings, safety situations, and a threat of life issue a few years back.

Nevertheless,  I remember what a concerned black woman, mother of two children, said in a tv interview: “I know some of you say, ‘We’re tired of hearing it.’  Well, we’re tired of EXPERIENCING IT.”   I support the Town Manager’s statement and the need to guard against ANY form of maltreatment by ANY officers, officials or townspeople when relating to ANY person who may look different than ourselves, worship differently, or love differently.  Faison’s comments cause us all to pause to make sure we’re treating people the way WE would like to be treated.

On the “remedy” end of things, I am glad that, as one of his first legislative efforts, Senator Joseph Boncore addressed criminal justice reform.  Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins has also made early efforts to reform the criminal justice system especially dealing with persons of color.

Here in Winthrop, I support the creation of a Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee, called in most other communities the Human Rights Committee (HRC).  Such a Committee would help deal with any form of alleged discrimination due to race, sex, gender identification, etc.  I would trust that the Town Council  would create a HRC and appoint qualified members to oversee it.

Note that at the 06-16-20 Town Council meeting, President Philip Boncore acknowledged my and several other citizens’ support of Austin Faison’s statement and my request for a Human Rights Committee.

In Chief Delehanty’s temporary absence, Deputy Chief John Goodwin responded with “looking forward to open dialogue about what the Winthrop Police have done before the recent protest and how to improve moving forward.  Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”  Previously, Chief Delehanty reminded all officers of its use-of-force policy, and, relative to race relations in Winthrop (06-04-”Transcript”), Chief Delehanty stated that as the town’s demographics shift, he wants to “build relationships” with all residents and “include them in the decision-making process.”

Creation of a HRC, efforts to treat all people with respect, building relationships, reforming criminal justice laws, are all efforts to execute the “real change” that Town Manager Faison is talking about.

Donna Segreti Reilly

Supports Human Rights Committee

Dear Editor

I made the decision to move my family out of Winthrop when my son was in the third grade and was called the n-word by other children his age. Clearly, these young children were taught that word at home and they knew it would be hurtful even though they likely didn’t truly know its legacy. I can promise you it was a gut-punch and reality check for me. As luck would have it, he ended up marrying a third-generation Winthropite, buying a home and raising a family here. I moved back when I retired to be close to them. I now have three beautiful grandchildren that I do not want to have the same experience we had some 30 years ago. Yes, times have changed, but not enough and there is so much more to do to recognize systemic racism and the effects of unconscious bias and white privilege, so we become a more inclusive community. Establishing an HRC\DICR would be an important step to ensure that concerns of discrimination are given a hearing, awareness is raised through educational events, local resources that address civil and human rights are readily available to anyone who seeks them and there is an ongoing effort to reduce fear and appreciate, respect and be inclusive of the other cultures who reside in our community. It is not enough to be a silent bystander in this fight for equality and inclusion; we must take action. The establishment of a diversity, inclusion, and community relations committee would be a good first step. Lets not allow this moment to pass. 

Reverend Terri Bracy

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