Combatting racism in Southington

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A video made by a 17 year-old student at Southington High School filled with racist rants and threats towards African-Americans went viral last month and sent shock waves through the community.

“It was horrifying,” said Erica Byrne. Erica is a resident of Southington and part of a group that’s trying to stand up against racism. The group is called Southington Women for Progress and they’re holding a community conversation meeting on January 23rd at the Southington Public Library to bring people together to engage in a dialogue for better understanding.

“There’s just this feeling right now that people are less accountable for the things that they say and aren’t being led to think about the impact of what they’re saying on other members of their community,” Erica said.

Erica told News 8 she was shocked but not surprised by that video. She says controversial attitudes are not new in her community.

“About a year and a half ago there were some white supremacist fliers that were anonymously distributed and posted in town,” she said.

She also pointed to a school board meeting that occurred just last night. Several minority students spoke up, saying they’ve been targets of negative behavior from other students in Southington schools. News 8 contacted some parents of those students. They were reluctant to speak on camera. However, News 8 did get this statement from the Superintendent of Schools in Southington:

“There was truth and emotion in their comments which I feel were offered with respect and hope.  At the same time, I am appalled by the fact that any of our students have experienced the types of behaviors reported by these students.  The types of comments and actions reported by our students are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated within the confines of the Southington Public Schools.  School should be a place where all students feel safe, both physically and emotionally and ready to learn.   They have the right to feel accepted unconditionally by their peers, their teachers, administrators and other adult staff.  The comments especially from our students clearly indicate that there is much work to done in that regard.  Although the Southington Public Schools have programs in all schools that support the development of caring and kindness toward others we can and will do more in the schools with the support of our students, families and staff.  As a community, I believe we can do more, be more inclusive, be more accepting and become more knowledgeable about our own biases.  Our collective goal should be that all children attending our schools feel safe, accepted and understood regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or other differences.  We have begun taking some small steps in this direction and we will continue along the path until we reach that goal.”

Respectfully,

Tim Connellan

The President of the Connecticut NAACP applauds Erica’s group for trying to make a difference and open up dialogue about racism, but, he says more action should be taken. He points to the student who made that racist video as an example.

“You have to make sure that the state’s attorney’s office arrests this individual under hate crime laws,” Esdale said. “This is a public safety issue….we can have dialogue, we can have conversation, but it’s important that law enforcement deals with these individuals and gets them behind bars.”

The Community Conversation hosted by the Southington Women for Progress is called: “Opening Our Eyes: Colorblindness & Race in Our Community.”

It’ll be held on January 23rd from 7-8pm  at the Southington Public Library at 255 Main Street. You have to pre-register for the event. To do that, log onto southingtonwomenforprogress.org.
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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