Letter: White Privilege filters our views of the world

Posted 9/16/21

A concise and thoughtful letter appeared recently by Noel Hewitt of this town regarding Diversity Committees and questioning the need for them.  I was impressed by his reasoning in addressing …

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Letter: White Privilege filters our views of the world

Posted

A concise and thoughtful letter appeared recently by Noel Hewitt of this town regarding Diversity Committees and questioning the need for them.  I was impressed by his reasoning in addressing discriminatory issues with various folks, a great strategy for understanding.

Mt Hewitt concludes that he has little doubt that discrimination does occur, but maintains that it is outside of Bristol County, and by implication, outside of our small town of Bristol.

On the surface, I would tend to agree with Mr. Hewitt, as there is nothing obvious about policies or practices within our town that could be described as discriminatory. I am pleased to know that he supports efforts to stop discrimination where it might happen outside of government or business.

He writes, correctly, that while the Constitution supports the rights of ALL individuals, it also protects those who would speak in blatant bias and prejudicial ways, rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Mr. Hewitt wants his vote to count, supporting laws and policies of the majority,

even in disagreement. My concern, however, has less to do with the majority, but rather more about protections of minorities, those that do experience bias.

There is something missing in the honest writing of this gentleman, and I understand it, because I come from the same place, and that is White Privilege. It is easy to claim discrimination does not exist here because it is not obvious to us, the white majority.

We see the world through the lens of privilege. We ourselves have not experienced prejudice. However, below the surface, bias does exist in our humble town, with testimony and first-hand evidence provided.

When the Black Lives Matter flag issue surfaced, we who listened, heard testimony from people of color, our own town residents telling of abuse. There were several emotional and painful accounts told in public testimony in 2020.

Later, when the DEI committee was being discussed and presented, I remember hearing the words of a gay individual about taunts he has received here. I also recall hearing the sad words of a female RWU professor who gave testimony about her discriminatory treatment at the “progressive” school here in our midst.

These were residents who spoke courageously, telling their stories. This substantiates the need for a Diversity Committee to hear from people like this, and make recommendations of remedy to our Town Council who are the ones empowered to correct such things. There are possibly hate crimes being committed, which are not protected by the Constitution.

No, our local government does not practice in discriminatory ways, but why allow the open abuse received by some individuals. A DEI Committee would never oversee Council action, or make direct policies. It was intended to be an advisory group only. This was made abundantly clear by Rob Hancock, who worked very closely with our Town Solicitor.

We all need to remove the lenses of White Privilege and endorse a DEI group to assist our Town Council, who are the only ones empowered to act.

Stephan Brigidi
Bristol

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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.