Jim Marpe: “Westport Not Immune” To Dealing With Serious Racial Issues

First Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement last night, shortly after learning of the presence of racist flyers in Westport:

I am deeply concerned and disappointed that statements like this have found their way to Westport homes. This kind of racial ugliness has no place anywhere, and certainly not Westport.

I have always been proud to speak of Westport as an open and welcoming community, and I continue to believe that the vast majority of Westporters practice that belief through tolerance, inclusion and everyday civil behavior.

This past year has reminded us that our nation still needs to deal with some serious racial issues, and now we know that Westport is not immune.  I have asked TEAM Westport to work with the Interfaith Clergy, the Board of Education and the appropriate town agencies, to lead our community’s response to these outrageous statements and, more importantly, the behaviors and beliefs that underpin them.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport yesterday.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport yesterday.


21 responses to “Jim Marpe: “Westport Not Immune” To Dealing With Serious Racial Issues

  1. Roberta tager

    Jim Marpe, I knew you were “one of the god guys”. Glad you are quickly addressing this matter . Much appreciate your works:

  2. John Dodig

    Westport IS a very open and accepting community. The only way this ugly activity can take place is to do it in the dead of night. At Staples, the very few times that statements like that are made it is always and only in the privacy of a toilet stall. Students know it would not be tolerated by anyone if done in a public space. We will never change everyone’s mind, but we can certainly make it unacceptable and dangerous to reveal hatred during the day in view of other Westporters. I have faith in all of us. I can only imagine what would have happened if this person had tried spreading those leaflets during the day. It would have been ugly. I have faith in us that we would do the right thing.

  3. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    Just for the sake of argument…
    why is the statement ‘White Lives Matter’ now considered a racist statement anymore than ‘Black Lives Matter’?
    I teach my children that ALL LIVES MATTER. Isn’t that what we all want to promote?
    Until the true intentions of the person distributing the flyers is known why jump to any conclusion.
    We as a culture are piling onto the shoulders of todays children mixed messages and the guilt of many previous generations.
    Sadly there is much work to bring everyone together but lets pick our battles wisely.

  4. Jonathan Maddock

    I can’t figure out what the intended results of this message are. Its also unclear to me why it was delivered in this way. An important part a message is who it is from and its intended recipients. Without that context, meaning and effect are lost.

  5. Eric Buchroeder (Norwalk Hospital '52)

    Westport is and always has been a great place to live and to grow up in. It is, however, no less or no more reflective of larger American society than any other town. As long as America remains divided and at war with itself Westport will have its divisions. All lives matter and Westport is no exception.

  6. Steve Stein

    Of course – every one counts- black and white! The problem here is the intended meaning of the message by the deliverer and the method of delivery.

    The problem is when someone delivers a message in the middle of the night by throwing notes in plastic baggies with stones onto our lawns and driveways, it says the intent is both racist and divisive- not a statement of the obvious- that all parts of the whole are important. We would all get that loud and clear if we saw the KKK demonstrating in full regalia on the Bridge Street bridge with signs- “white lives count”. (And with the KKK’s history even if they had signs that said “All Lives Count ” – the intent would still be seen by all as racist and divisive!! )

    Just asking- When something like this happens – middle of the night notes thrown on our lawns – are there any lines of communication to surrounding towns to see if this has happened there as well. Are the Westport notes local and homegrown or part of an area wide problem created by some out of town racists spreading their venom here, there and everywhere? Are we just left to assume that this is the work of the 0.01 percent that make up our own homegrown haters sneaking around in the dark of night!!

    Either way- we all have to speak up!!

  7. Jaime Bairaktaris

    As a Staples student, I can personally say that it’s an open and accepting school and town from a teenager’s viewpoint. But, ignorance is out there. This stunt wasn’t done to promote equality for all, but to share the viewpoint of those that believe the demonstrations of Ferguson and Baltimore are wrong. This was a cowardly and infantile act produced by ignorance and attention-seeking individuals. The response by our town leaders is welcome, all voices should be heard but at the end of the day – mocking movements that have ruined people’s lives and towns all for the equality that they should already have. It’s acts like the violence, looting, and even these posters here in Westport that distort the message and ruin the movement.

  8. Joanne Romano

    Unfortunately we have not progressed much over the years. We live in a society of conquer and divide. Its shameful that we are teaching our future generations that it is ok to label people and it is ok to descriminate every day we take steps backwards! Activists fuel the fires and get rich off others sufferings it shouldn’t matter tge color of ones skin, their religion, their ethnic background of your neighbors what should matter is character. Unfortunately we can’t seem to get past the past the past .

    One thing i have always lilived by, Children aren’t born to hate, they are taught. You are your childrens teachers. Teach them well!

  9. I’m grateful for Jim Marpe’s immediate response in taking this racist flyer seriously. Yesterday I texted Dan Woog (our “Town Crier”) at noon but he didn’t get it until 6 pm. No one mentioned calling the police, but I did at 9 am and the dispatcher totally rebuffed my call. “All lives matter” was her reply. She said I could bring the flyer into the Police Department, but when we did around 10 am, the officer at the desk also thought this was not important and told me he didn’t want to keep the flyer, ziploc bag and stones to show anyone. One writer’s comment (Alex Kuhner) really answered the “All lives matter” argument: “White lives matter” is racist because it is clearly meant to denigrate the “black lives matter” message by implying that blacks are either lying about their conditions or are getting what they deserve.” The latest Time magazine talks about how important the “Black Lives Matter” movement is. I look forward to some discussions in Westport, thanks to Jim’s leadership.

    • I want to clarify what really happened when I called the Police Dept. (I always admire Dan’s correction of his almost-never errors.) It was I, not the dispatcher, who said “All lives matter” because I was trying to get her empathy and didn’t feel she was taking the situation seriously. In fact, she was doing her job (to only take info and then send out an officer) and the same with the officer at the desk (who isn’t allowed to collect “evidence” and also suggested I could make a complaint to an officer). I feel very encouraged that this discussion is starting, even though I don’t think the problem is in Westport.

  10. Steve Axthelm

    Thank you for speaking out on this Jim. And for seeking action from Interfaith, BOE and Team Westport. Dr. MLK: “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”.

  11. Tom Leyden

    What’s clear to me is that whoever these thoughtless people/person are/is they sure got wider distribution of their provacative message with the media frenzie that has ensued.

  12. Stephanie Bass

    There is only one way to interpret this message; it’s racist. He or she got it from parents who were also ignorant. Yes, it should be a community issue and we should be vocal that it will not be tolerated here — but there will always be people who pass on their racist views.

  13. I am concerned that this “message” has garnered far fewer thoughts than the sticker “message”.

  14. I agree, Nancy. I found the coverage on the news this evening, revealing some of our community’s blissful ignorance, embarrassing. I trust that the community response, in the works, will strengthen our community, and in unexpected way this incident will actually raised the awareness of many Westporters who have the privilege to not know what “White lives matters” means today.

  15. Daniel Katz

    If the author of the statement simply had added the word “too” or “also,” no one would have even raised an eyebrow…are we so crippled by political correctness that an opinion equal and oposite to the litany of “black lives matter” now causes the police and the government of our town to get “involved.”
    Lighten up, for Christ’s sake…all lives matter and we ought to be free too say so any way we like.

    • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

      Agreed, this overreaction is as troubling as some nitwit leaving innocuous flyers in ziplock bags… If you are always looking for hidden meanings you will ALWAYS find one. IMHO

  16. I fail to see how this is a law enforcement matter…