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 firstname.lastname@example.org and our public meetings are posted to the Town calendar.