#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Time For A New Chapter Of Inclusion | Falmouth Columns

I was at a social event recently with a dear friend. The locale was a well-known and venerable gathering place where a who’s who of Falmouth has gathered socially for more than 100 years. My friend and I were walking out of the restroom together when we encountered a citizen who recognized me from my days in politics. He offered a warm hello and a handshake. We exchanged pleasantries, and his gaze then fixed on my friend. Without saying a word, his face hardened as he examined my pal from head to toe, offered a disapproving glare, and then walked away. I stood in stunned silence. My friend is black. It was the first time I had ever faced such blatant racism and intolerance. And it happened right here in Falmouth.

So, when it comes to race relations, embracing our rich diversity, and coming together as one community, one Falmouth, we may have made some progress, but this chilling and unfortunately not-isolated event is clear evidence that we’ve got a ways to go.

This is but one example. There are others. That is why the current proposal from the Falmouth Affirmative Action/Diversity Committee to reinstate the long-vacant position of affirmative action officer should be approved—unanimously. I worked over the years with the two previous incumbents—George Spivey and Jayme Dias, and both were not only true professionals, but they were affable and engaging ambassadors for inclusion and true emissaries for diversity. In the days of Jayme and George, the position was funded half by the town and half by the schools, and they appropriately spent time in both organizations. They made sure Falmouth’s rich cultural, intellectual and economical diversity was woven into our conversations, our decisions, our hiring and recruitment, professional development, and general relationships and inter-departmental interactions. Both retired after honorable and distinguished careers. It’s time to start a new chapter of inclusion.

The committee has submitted a petition article for this spring’s Annual Town Meeting, asking our local legislature to weigh in on this important consideration. As noted in a previous piece in the Enterprise, the article that our local legislators will be asked to vote on is simple and straightforward. According to committee member Sandra Faiman-Silva, “The Town of Falmouth Affirmative Action/Diversity Committee and local citizens believe that there is a lack of systematic outreach to community members in the areas of affirmative action education, consciousness-raising, advocacy, handling of hate-based incidents, conflict resolution and other areas of affirmative action and diversity education and outreach. This leadership deficit retards progress toward an improved social climate in Falmouth, inhibits cross-group understanding and tolerance and delays cross-group encounters. It is our firm belief that the town of Falmouth can improve these services to all members of the Falmouth community by establishing a formal structure to address these concerns.” That’s both well said and a clear and thoughtful justification for taking this step.

Since the days of George and Jayme, our community has unfortunately become less tolerant, less accepting and less inclusionary. They worked in a social media-free world. Cyber bullying in our schools, hate-based incidents at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, and just general nastiness and intolerance are on the rise. Having someone with an official role to teach, advocate and resolve—with the full endorsement of the town government itself—would send a clear message that the leaders of our community take improving all that seriously. You can’t put a price tag on that, but funding one position is certainly affordable, and certainly a good start.

When I told my friend who experienced that raw racism that I was writing this column, he reminded me that when events like that happen to one of us, they happen to all of us. “It happened to both of us because you were with me as my friend,” he explained, offering an insightful and important angle on a regrettable but teachable event. He’s right—and that’s why reinstating this position is important—for all of us.

Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.

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