Letter: Each Bristol citizen has rights and a voice

Posted 10/16/20

I seriously thought I was back in the early ’80s again hearing James Watt, the bigoted Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan, speaking in a mocking fashion about the makeup of …

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Letter: Each Bristol citizen has rights and a voice

Posted

I seriously thought I was back in the early ’80s again hearing James Watt, the bigoted Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan, speaking in a mocking fashion about the makeup of a government panel. I heard those same words when Bristol County Concerned Citizen Pete Hewett, remarked that we already have enough diversity in Bristol, claiming, we have a council made up of a woman, an immigrant, two white men, and a gay. We even have a black man as a school superintendent.

Mr. Hewett’s point was that we have no need for a Diversity Equity Inclusion Committee here in Bristol.  I truly believe that this naivete’ underscores the problem itself, how unconscious discrimination and bias is so pervasive here. Mr. Hewett is hardly alone.

These remarks were crude and rude distinctions. To say that his words were insensitive is an understatement, and underscores the very justification for a committee of citizens to support diversity in Bristol.

An Independent candidate for Bristol Town Council also proclaimed, “I will never support Black Lives Matter!” I can only imagine how it was felt by our citizens of color here in Bristol. I really don’t believe that Mike Byrnes has ever given the BLM folks ample opportunity to communicate their pains and frustrations. He refuses to listen and only disagrees with their expressions.

He is entitled to that opinion, and will remain ignorant to what BLM is trying to say. It’s unfortunate that he is unwilling to understand them. Both Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Hewett are members of the Bristol County Concerned Citizens, with the mission to preserve traditional family values.

This new DEI committee seeks to be an advisory group with a mission to assist local government in performing in the most equitable ways, certainly not undermining council actions or decisions, but assisting them. Councilwoman Mary Parella seeks to know more, rightfully so, with the suggestion that our legal solicitor meet with the people petitioning to clarify the mission and function of such a group.

Our police chief made it clear that education in these matters of diversity is ongoing here in Bristol, and there have been advancements. This is important progress. I was heartened to hear the chief’s words and openness in understanding and his willingness to learn more. We all need to learn more.

Fortunately for citizens of Bristol, our elected officials are also open to learning more about this DEI committee and how such a group may assist in supporting policies that serve to protect the equitable treatment of all people here. This issue will be addressed in ongoing Town Council discussions.

What we ALL seek, and I truly believe that both Mr. Hewett and Mr. Byrnes would agree, is that each Bristol citizen has rights and a voice, and should be given opportunities to be heard. The Constitution protects this.

The intentions of such a new advisory committee would be to review any human rights issues as they may arise, and offer recommendations. Isn’t this what we all want here in Bristol? 

Stephan Brigidi
Bristol

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.