Newton Forum On Prejudice Reveals Prejudice
The Newton Patch reports that Newton Forum on Prejudice Turns Ugly. A community meeting to discuss how to address incidents of racism and anti-Semitism was disrupted by activists Thursday night. The Boston Globe reported that some in the audience had other ideas, wanting only to talk about anti-Semitism.
According to the Globe, Jewish activists harassed an African-American woman who said her son was called a racist slur at school, while unidentified members of the crowd chimed in to say they were disappointed that people spoke about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and marriage equality.
Fleishman spoke at the meeting and received boos from the crowd before being walked to his car by police, according to the Globe.
Mayor Setti Warren responds:
I am proud of what we accomplished last night at a difficult, but essential, community meeting. As I said at the outset of the meeting, it will take work on the part of all of us to maintain Newton’s tradition as a welcoming, inclusive community. It is not enough to acknowledge the ground breaking work that came before us. Each community and each generation must keep up these efforts. I was proud that we could have a meeting last night and that we did not shy away from a difficult conversation. I also believe that we need to build on opportunities to listen to one another and to understand other people’s perspectives without looking to change what someone else thinks. I do want to highlight how impressed I was with our young people who spoke out last night, emphasizing that building alliances among all groups is the most effective way to combat prejudice. They displayed remarkable maturity and stayed to engage in further conversation with others after the meeting ended. They represent hope for the future.
So how are we planning to build on this first meeting? I am outlining four next steps:
1) I have hired Civil Rights attorney, Richard Cole, to work with our school system and our students. He will be conducting trainings with administrators and faculty to strengthen protocols for reporting incidents and practices for how to address these issues of prejudice and discrimination when they arise and how to discuss these issues with students. He will also be working with students to make sure our youth voices are leading important conversations and are represented in these processes.
2) The City’s Director of Youth Services will also be following up with students and faculty, and I expect the Youth Commission to engage around these issues as well.
3) I am committing my administration to continue this work with the community in collaboration with other groups in our City such as the Human Rights Commission and the Interfaith Clergy Association. We will be working on ways to engage in community building. We will also look for ways to engage and communicate with parents and families.
4) We will track progress we are making as a community and report results, beginning with posting responses we received prior to the meeting. The youth survey and the April 7 email address will remain live, and we urge people to continue to send comments, reflections, and questions.
If you were unable to attend the meeting but would like to view it, the tape of the live stream is available by clicking here. Whether or not you were there last night, I urge everyone to become and stay involved to ensure that Newton remains a welcoming community we all can be proud of.
Thank you, and I look forward to continuing our work together to make Newton the most welcoming, inclusive community that it can be.
Setti D. Warren
City of Newton, MA