This past May, a Lexington Observer article on affirmative action containing opinions from a variety of Lexington residents resulted in divisive and hurtful comments towards individuals quoted in the article. We, the Lexington Human Rights Committee, (LHRC) fully support and encourage free speech and public discourse. The plurality of perspectives in our community should give us more reason to listen and understand those with differing views.  Furthermore, we recognize that affirmative action and the college admissions process is complex and can be a  contentious issue. 

Our concern as the LHRC is not the differences of opinions, but the personal and misleading characterization of entire groups of people of different racial backgrounds and lived experiences. As a Town Committee, our mission is to build a more unified community that recognizes our commonalities and respects our differences. There are times when we must confront statements and actions that conflict with these core values. In doing so, the  Committee works to foster civil public discourse. In this instance we felt it prudent to address the hurtful and divisive nature of some comments. 

Public platforms such as email lists and online comment sections are often a challenging space for fully communicating one’s true thoughts and intent. While it is important to recognize that people have the right to express their beliefs candidly, statements that unnecessarily pit one group against another are inherently divisive and ultimately hurt the goal of learning and participation in community dialogue. For example, many comments  posted on the Lex Observer article questioned the legitimacy of Black and Latino students at Harvard and perpetuated historical stereotypes that are harmful and not grounded in truth. There are ways to argue an opposing view in a manner that does not make broad assumptions or use language that degrades others. Calling our neighbors by name and attacking their perspective or lived experience is counterproductive to civil and public  discourse. 

We believe our shared aspirations are more alike than not. In Lexington, we have opportunities to address educational inequities. Inequities in education exist across many identities, even in Lexington.  These are reported annually by the Lexington Public School District (LPS Annual Report on Reducing Systematic  Barriers) and describe the large inequities in education that exist for Black students whether it be disparities in suspension rates, access to advanced level coursework or inclusion in general education. We must acknowledge that these inequities exist and that the data supports that they carry into high school and beyond.* These disparities in education remain a challenge for schools across the nation, even for prominent public schools such as Lexington. 

As we continue the conversation, we hope future discourse will avoid the pitfalls of division and instead, lead to greater curiosity and understanding of one another. 

We appreciate any thoughts, comments, or disagreements you may have. This letter was approved by the LHRC  by a vote of 5-0 on July 19, 2023. The Lexington Human Rights Committee can be reached at and our public meetings are posted to the Town calendar. 

*Are Achievement Gaps Related to Discipline Gaps? Evidence From National Data

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  1. I applaud the information in this comment. All of the principles describing the intention of the Lexington Human Rights Committee are laudable.

    I believe one of the sources of objectionable opinions is the habit of websites that publish such comments to verify the true identity of the person making the comment.

    In running the Lexington List and lex-polrel list, I have seen many instances of people trying to gain access to these lists giving false information about their identities. If a publisher of such comments is not vigilant about true identity, it is possible for one individual to post opinions posing as many different people.

    Of course some will say “But, I want to preserve my privacy”. Well, the cost of privacy in a public forum is that you don’t get to promote your opinion is you want to remain private. Associating your reputation with what you say is part part of admission to the public forum.

    True identity requires significant work to achieve. And verification must happen repeatedly. Sloppy verification techniques only give a false sense of accuracy.

  2. One further comment: My point is not so much about questioning the veracity of identities of commenters to LexObserver, but as a general trend to see people make comments with false identities. The recent example of comments about the article in the LexObserver about affirmative action (all of which look legit to me) brought up in my mind, a recent attempt by somebody to stir up dissent on the lex-polrel list by giving a false address when establishing his credentials to join the list. This imposter then started a conversation that promoted the petition to challenge the “Strong Talks” curriculum in the Lexington Public Schools. When asked him to provide his real address, he responded:

    “I appreciate your understanding in advance of the concern I’m about to share. While my residence remains in Lexington, as indicated on the form, I have reservations about sharing my specific home address. This stems from past instances of receiving unsettling messages due to political views that may not always align with the broader Lexington community.”

    When considering how to proceed, I faced the dilemma of accepting the word of a commenter who lied to me initially about his address. I was unable to find any trace connecting his name to anything in Lexington. In essence, he was a mysterious ghost to me, and after requesting further proof, he said he was only willing to give me an area of Town in which he lived.

    I decided that he failed my test for a someone with a true identity and I removed him from the list.

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