Last Thursday, February 4th, during a routine meeting of the Longmeadow Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force, anonymous attendees of the public Zoom call unmuted themselves and unleashed a stream of anti-semetic and racist hate speech. They were quoted as having said “n*****s need to burn” and “f**k n******s.” In addition, they plastered the screen of the Zoom call with swastikas and more racial slurs. They were only stopped when coalition members were able to forcibly mute everyone and wipe the screen clean. When the incident was finished, committee members were left visibly shaken.
Ironically, the Longmeadow Coalition for Racial Justice was formed in July to combat this exact behavior. Amidst the racial justice protests last summer, the Longmeadow Select Board declared racism a public health emergency. They passed a resolution that created the coalition in an attempt to reform racist policies, hire, promote, and distribute raises to non-white municipal workers, and try to heal the racial prejudice that has existed in this town, like every other town in the United States, since the very beginning.
Once the attendees were silenced the coalition went on with their work, unwilling to be stopped by the remarks of xenophobic strangers. The identities of these people are still not known but the Longmeadow Police Department is investigating. The coalition released a statement afterwards condemning the actions of the attendees and stressing that, “These events demonstrate both that racism and antisemitism is as real and as present today in our community as it has been for hundreds of years, and that the Longmeadow Select Board’s action to declare racism a public health crisis last summer was urgently necessary.”
At the latest School Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 9th, Mr. Ryan Kelly, chair of the Longmeadow School Committee, said, “This hate speech incident is exactly why anti-racism is one of our goals as a committee. Those goals lead to actions by our school department… People that want to do that kind of stuff, you’re not welcome, and we’re trying to teach the kids to not be like you. I appreciate the efforts of everyone in our schools, because that is where it starts. We need to be doing this first so people like that aren’t here anymore.”
It seems that this incident has only strengthened the coalition as well as the School Committee’s commitment to combating racism in Longmeadow with an anti-racist curriculum that will one day make attacks like these a thing of the past.
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