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Embrace diversity without divisiveness

Elaine Shea of Arlington submitted this letter. She calls herself "a concerned citizen, wanting the best for our town." She was among those founding First Step, a group that supports women facing domestic violence.

Arlington Fights Racism logo

I have lived in Arlington all my life. I love this town and feel so lucky to call it home.

Recently, I have been troubled by the actions of some members of Arlington Fights Racism. I support their commitment to stand up for racial justice.

In this past week, the need to address these issues has been front and center. How we choose to move forward as a town to achieve these goals is critical to the process and the outcome: a civil tone is what we need.

In my work with women who have known domestic violence, I have encouraged the women to find their voice when their gut tells them something doesn’t feel right. My gut is unsettled right now. I have been troubled by the hostile accusations some members of the Arlington Fights Racism alliance have made toward our town leaders. I know the members of the Select Board and the Police Department who were targeted. They are good people who are dedicated to the well-being of our town. It saddens me to know that they have not been treated with respect.

At Town Day last year, I was asked to sign a petition against racism in Arlington. I am certainly against racism in this town and anywhere else. However, had I read the petition carefully, I would not have signed it, for it questioned our town manager’s integrity. One might disagree with a decision he made, but not the thoughtful deliberation he gave to that decision.

I believe we all need to be UPSTANDERS, one who stands up for a cause or belief. I have been passionate about the term since I first heard it expressed by a Polish woman who spoke at Robbins Library in 2014. She told of how most of her family members were killed by the Nazis, but she and her siblings were saved by UPSTANDERS, brave and compassionate people who stood up for what they believed was right and took them into their home as their own family.

I have been committed to helping women who have been involved in domestic violence for over twenty years. When I heard the word UPSTANDER, it touched my core. I decided I needed to do more to stand up for victims, by encouraging and teaching those who knew of situations of domestic abuse, to stand up and help their friends and loved ones break away from their abuser.

We all need to be UPSTANDERS to fight the undercurrents of racism in our community.

Yet, I want people to do it in a kind and respectful way, not disparaging those with differing views. I have given out hundreds of UPSTANDER bracelets as reminders of the importance of this cause. I wear mine every day, as do two of our Select Board members, Joe Curro and John Hurd. It does take courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially if it is a sensitive and difficult subject. Yet, it also calls for compassion, open-mindedness and civility.

I want Arlington to be more diverse. I want every resident to feel that they matter and have equal rights. I want people to stand up for the causes they are passionate about. I would like us all to be UPSTANDERS and work together, respectfully, toward racial and economic justice. 

This letter was published Monday, June 1, 2020.

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