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How Does A Welcoming Community Respond to This?

I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am expressing my own opinions. Recently, I was sent this reply to a post in the Durham, Lee, Madbury Community Facebook group discussing the upcoming Mill Pond Dam March 8th vote. It seems ironic that a week ago I was sitting at the Oyster River Community School District Deliberative Session discussing the need for a district Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Coordinator. Most of us assume we live in a welcoming community, yet here was an inflammatory racist post in plain sight on a widely read Facebook group. Would we let it slide by or would we respond?

On one afternoon in 2017, a young student on an Oyster River school bus did not want another student sitting next to them and made racist comments. This sparked a community outcry and resulted in a well-attended forum at the high school. Over the next year, the district worked on and adopted the ORCSD Racism and Anti-Racism Policy. As I read the Facebook post, I thought about this section:

"Educate and teach about stereotyping. Stereotypes are destructive to and undermine the learning environment that ORCSD seeks to foster for all staff and students. Inform ORCSD students about stereotyping and the negative consequences and that by not intervening when stereotypes occur, one is complicit in the face of injustice."

When we were developing the policy, the words "intervening in the face of injustice" really resonated with me. It is so fundamental to change, and so challenging in the real world. How do you intervene when it involves an adult on a Facebook post? Taking it down is easy, but does nothing to counter the stereotyping in the message. How do we apply the lessons we have learned to this incident? Can we get past a simple response and use this to help us become a more welcoming community?

Al Howland


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