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Demonstrate Allyship With Words And Actions



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To the Editor:

In early April, Newtowners on social media rallied around a hawk that had been cruelly shot with an arrow. In one online post, 614 of us “liked” or “loved” that the hawk had been captured and was being treated. He was lifted in prayer by many and monetary contributions were collected for his care. Later that month Luna, a little dog from Danbury, escaped on a stormy afternoon in Newtown while accompanying her owner here on a job. Newtowners searched for her, prayed for her, worried about her, and woke up wondering if she had been found. Well, the hawk is healing and Luna was found! How great I felt about living in this special town, where we all care so much!

Then I was confronted with a reality check. I was part of a discussion in another online group in which several members reported having witnessed racist behavior by a local restaurant owner. Shortly thereafter, in the same social media group that had rallied around the hawk and lost dog, someone asked where they might find the best breakfast sandwich in town. The racist behavior of the aforementioned business owner was brought up again. Excuses were made (“He’s just rude” “He doesn’t have a filter”). Others said he treated them just fine. Some wanted more details about what had happened; most just wanted to talk about breakfast sandwiches.

Some thoughts:

It was an open secret that a local business owner uses racist language in front of white customers. What does tolerating and keeping that fact quiet say about us?

Allyship includes being prepared to speak up immediately upon witnessing a racially problematic incident and reporting it as soon as possible. No, this is not “cancel culture.” This is about the physical and emotional safety of our residents of color. It is critical that they be aware of the local businesses where they (and their children!) are most likely to be exposed to racist behavior by owners or employees.

To be an ally to BIPOC Newtowners, we white residents need to be accurate when describing or reporting racist or discriminatory conduct. If a business owner uses racist language, it’s not enough to report that he’s “rude.”

I ask local business owners to give serious thought to putting Black Lives Matter signs in your storefront windows. It would be a clear way of indicating that residents of color will be welcomed, valued, and respected in your space.

We have a race problem in Newtown. White Newtowners can help by educating ourselves and actively working for change.

I hope that we will be willing to demonstrate with words and actions that we cherish the humanity of all of our neighbors; that all are beloved members of this community. We know that our town is capable of quickly uniting together around an injured hawk or lost dog. I’d like to see that same sense of urgency when it comes to our brothers and sisters of color.

Wendy Leon-Gambetta

Sawmill Ridge Road, Newtown May 7, 2021

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. juliaprovey says:

    I will definitely be supporting any business displaying a Black Lives Matter sign .

  2. duckmom says:

    Thank you, Wendy, for bringing an important issue to light. As a member of the group to which you are referring, I also only recently became aware of the business owner’s behavior, and I am mortified that I ever gave him business. I will never set foot in there again, and will definitely be seeking out businesses who demonstrate allyship. Castle Hill Chocolate is a wonderful example of a local business willing to do the hard work. Let’s stop making excuses for the racist actions of certain individuals, and start working for real change in this town.

  3. jesscelina says:

    Thank Wendy for your words. I wholeheartedly agree with you. We should not wait for a tragedy to occur for change to come to Newtown. We have to actively seek that change both as individuals and as a community.

  4. michelle.bua says:

    This is beautifully written. To those who may read this and not understand or disagree, please take just a moment to self reflect. Have you ever heard racial comments and instead of speaking up, ignored what you heard? It is simple actions like speaking up against this behavior and letting the individual know that it is unacceptable that can make where you live safer for your BIPOC neighbors. Have you ever dubbed somebody suspicious because of the color of their skin? That is likely somebody’s baby boy.. beloved father.. as hardworking and respectable as they come. In your heart of hearts be honest with yourself, even if it is an uncomfortable feeling. We are only asking for kindness.. acceptance.. inclusion. There is no downside to this. Please open your hearts to know everyone, including you can make consistent, subtle changes that will have big results. Its not asking much, but it is everything to those who are only asking for peace, and a better, safer world for themselves and their families.

  5. maggiheilweil says:

    So glad to read this. I’m Jewish. My Dad taught me that when I heard an anti-semetic comment not to get mad but to educate – kindly and without anger. I think this applies in this and many situations. (Perhaps there are situations where it isn’t safe to do so.) I miss my Dad and my Mom. My Mom taught us to understand the the black experience. She said, probably in the 70’s, that if she were black she would be a militant black. I understood what she meant. Both my parent’s intelligence, wisdom and kindness has been influenced the way I look at the world (or try to) and I am so grateful. So I want to take this opportunity to tell them that I miss them and love them and think of them so often. My Mom is been gone 7 years and my Dad 21 years. Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers. Influence your children well. As Stephen Sondheim says in his musical Into the Woods, “Children will listen”. I’m glad I did.

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