Letter: Let's commit to rooting out hometown racism as well

Posted 6/11/20

To the editor:

I loved seeing so many Little Comptoners on Sunday standing up against our nation’s recent racist murders. Standing up is beautiful, but we must also commit to working for …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Letter: Let's commit to rooting out hometown racism as well

Posted

I loved seeing so many Little Comptoners on Sunday standing up against our nation’s recent racist murders. Standing up is beautiful, but we must also commit to working for change. That work starts in our homes, workplaces, community groups, and town institutions.

As a predominantly white rural coastal community, I think Little Compton often sees racism as a far-away problem with little impact or relevance here. It’s long overdue time to investigate that.

It’s no coincidence that this town is mostly white. The history, structures, and systems we uphold made it that way, and keep it that way. While we rightly condemn overt racism and racist murders, we must also to learn to root out hometown racism, and the segregationist impacts of many of our decisions. 

It’s shown up in the recent flurry around shoreline access. I hope we’ll see ourselves as the stewards of the shoreline for all (including visitors!) not gatekeepers for the privileged few. Have we forgotten these beaches aren’t ours? This land was taken from Sakonnet People. The same racism we condemn today was invented by white Europeans to justify colonization.

Let's look deeply at our town. Is our school safe and inclusive for all children? Are we educating from a diverse multicultural pedagogy or a white-centered narrative? Black children and children of color deserve to see themselves reflected in — centered in — their lessons, and we mustn't teach white children that they are “the default” — avoiding building nuanced understandings of race and culture. This deficit harms everyone, and misses the full picture. 

Let’s address housing affordability. I’m ashamed of how inaccessible housing is to low-income people, young families, and elders here. Let’s work collaboratively to solve that. Diversity makes strong sustainable communities. In a country where wealth has been systemically attached to race, housing is a racial justice issue.

Let’s work toward true community safety. No one should ever again be targeted by police here because of skin color or gender expression, and no one should be harassed for speaking out for change. 

These are all urgent projects. We can educate ourselves and our families while we work on this together. 

Our lack of diversity harms us all — those who are kept out, those who live in a bubble devoid of difference, and those holding marginalized identities who live here but don’t fit into the majority mindset. There is shame and trauma and pain in this — yes, but let’s remember that facing that pain directly and working on this actively is how we truly seek peace. In shying away, all we do is pass that pain on to our children.

To build real peace we need accountability, structural change, and justice. Let’s see our town as one that acts in solidarity with the rest of Rhode Island, not as some kind of secret garden. Let’s work together to build an inclusive multifaceted community that we can be proud of. We can have that world, but we have to commit to doing the work. 

Isabel Mattia

Little Compton

Isabel Mattia is a member of the Little Compton Housing Trust .

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.