Residents push Select Board to address racism

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During the public forum portion of Thursday’s Select Board meeting, three residents called attention to current high-profile societal issues and how Hopkinton is dealing with them.

Ilana Cassady said she is seeking “improved communication, transparency and action from our local government.”

“Many local citizens, including myself, have increased their awareness of systemic racism and lack of anti-racism both locally and nationally,” she said. “At first glance, Hopkinton seems to be doing many things right. We are one of the safest communities in the state, and I am proud to be raising my children here. But once I started to dig deeper and look at our community from a person of color’s perspective, I realize how privileged I have been.

“I believe now is the time that we must begin to implement changes in order to make healthy progress and ensure Hopkinton is safe and secure for all residents. As our Select Board, you all have the power to guide our town and shape our futures so that all residents feel safe, represented and equal.”

Casady requested that four calls to action be put on the agenda for the next Select Board meeting on July 21 for discussion and vote.

The first is for the Select Board to make a formal statement in support of Black Lives Matter. The second is to institute anti-racist hiring practices, implement diversity and sensitivity training in all departments, and set hiring goals to increase diverse representation. The third is to review the allocation of funds to public service employees including but not limited to police officers, mental health specialists and social workers in order to reallocate funds to decrease police responsibility and increase alternative social services in town. The fourth is for the Hopkinton police chief to give a formal statement on how he is making changes within the department to address intrinsic racial bias.

Added Casady: “We must all do our part to dismantle systemic racism. It all starts here.”

Resident Mike Werner said he believes strongly that action needs to be taken on these issues.

“As someone who has grown up here and as someone who is a white male, I’ve really seen a shocking and considerable amount of racism from people who look like me in town,” he said. “I think there’s a tendency for a lot of that racism to happen behind closed doors and in private conversations, as well as homophobia. … I just really think that it’s important for the town and for the Select Board to recognize how serious and ingrained a problem this is.”

Resident Michelle Heeney noted that there have been people of color speaking out lately about troubling experiences in town — something she indicated she was personally familiar with as well.

“I think that there needs to be a way that we as a town grow from this and don’t shy away from the fact that we have problems, that we need to make a commitment to our residents to make this as safe a place for everyone as it is for the safest people in our town,” she said.

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