Why Is Westport So White? The Discussion Begins.

The title was provocative: “Why is Westport So White? What Can You Do About It?”

The speakers were heartfelt. Their list of examples was long, at a meeting last night that covered topics like long-ago real estate practices, current zoning regulations, and the roles of schools and police.

The event — organized by a group of residents ranging from long-timers to newcomers, as well as TEAM Westport — drew a crowd of about 75 (outdoors and socially distanced) to MoCA Westport. Another 25 or so joined via Zoom.

Black residents spoke of their experiences as a very small minority, in a very white town. In one compelling example, Ifeseyi Gale was confronted by a suspicious family when she pulled into a driveway to pick up an item.

Ifeseyi Gale addresses the crowd at MoCA.

2020 Staples High School graduate Natasha Johnson — now a Wharton student — sent a recorded message that recounted many painful experiences, starting in elementary schools.

Many speakers described their love for the town. For example, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey noted Police Chief Foti Koskinas’ grace and calm, and applauded new Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice’s openness to hearing about what can be done differently and better, in terms of diversity and inclusion.

But they did not shy away from demanding that the town do a better job in race relations.

A white student described a survey, in which recent Staples grads were asked about their preparation for living in a diverse society. Many noted that they had been led to believe the world is color-blind — but it is not.

TEAM Westport sponsors an annual high school essay contest. Past prompts have included micro-aggressions, and taking a knee protests. TEAM Westport has spent has spent nearly 2 years working with the school system on a framework including training, hiring, curriculum and staffing that would address diversity and inclusion. Winners of the 2019 TEAM Westport essay contest are (from left) chair Harold Bailey, and Chet Ellis, Angela Ji, Daniel Boccardo and Olivia Sarno.

Planning and Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin discussed how the lack of diverse housing impacts who lives here. She urged elimination of Westport’s cap on multifamily housing — which limits the total number of those units to 10% of total town dwellings, many of which are age-restricted and do not allow families — along with removing a restriction on “accessory dwelling units” with full bathrooms and kitchens. Permitting property owners to rent guest cottages, or create separate private living space, would expand housing stock and increase affordability and diversity.

Over the past few months, the entire country has talked openly about race. Organizers expressed hope that last night’s event will be an important beginning — not a one-time event — for their town.

92 responses to “Why Is Westport So White? The Discussion Begins.

  1. Edward Bonaham

    To claim that Westport is racist because of its “lack” of diversity is not fair, when in fact we are a very diverse town.

    People choose to live where they want. The high price to owning a home in Westport is a barrier to entry because of our large layouts of homes that take up two-three lots, the cost of living in Westport is high. That being said, our incentives stem from outstanding education, recreational amenities, close to the city, and enriched with diversified religions, genders, and backgrounds of individuals who have lived all over the world.

    People choose to live where they want. Plain and simple. It’s not like there’s a sign that deters certain people from living here, the opportunities and choice to live here are your choice.

    The whole 10% living, thats 8-30g, where units developed, are only 30% affordable, are only good for 7 years roughly, and do not count the millions of dollars in expansion to pre existing affordable housing in Westport. There is 122 acres of Westport that is undeveloped. It’s a small town. People move here to get away from the city-like development.

    People will move here.

    Westport as a whole supports diversity and our doors are as open as our town borders. What I don’t support, is people like Eva Amurri, whose been in town one year, going off on Instagram calling out Marpe and the entire town administration over a pro publica article, that’s completely bias and non accurate and saying we’re not caring And that were racist. We’re not at all. You want to get stuff done, work together. You don’t like Westport? Move.

    • Bonaham’s comment should be welcomed by them that’s got their thinking straight. Though our town may well have some who vocalize their racism(and, or, antisemitism), most Westporters seem accepting of others … even if and when it goes against their grain.
      As to the concept of increasing the stock of “affordable” housing in town, please bear with me while I quote the case for it as laid out by the state…I bother with the full quote only because it is simply gobbledygook as, clearly, the guidelines cannot be met by ANY suburb. I quote:
      “The need for affordable housing in CT is not just the need for units, but for housing that “works,” in each case for the target resident population and surrounding community.
      This means housing that is accessible (walkable or close to transit) to employment opportunities, support services, schools with necessary resources and/or recreational opportunities.”
      As said, NO SUBURB, BY DEFINITION, CAN MEET THOSE GUIDELINES for “affordable” housing…NONE.
      So, we “liberals” should suck up our guilt at being able to live where it’s nice, welcome all them who can do the same and be satisfied with making this town the best it can be for them that’s here.

    • Racism, properly understood, takes many forms. There is the overt, government enabled racism which we confronted in the 60’s; the more subtle racism that surfaces only when we are confronted by an issue that affects us directly such as busing or sharing our schools with less prosperous neighboring towns, (remember the furor over Project Concern); and the most insidious, least obvious racism which takes the form of denial and gives rise to pronouncements such as, “anyone can live here”.
      The fact is that not everyone can live here. The economic threshold is high, the lack of racial and socio-economic diversity in leadership, schools, and the population as a whole makes living here a challenge for people of color, and a well-documented history of and reputation for exclusion discourages all but the most courageous. Face it, we are all racist in our willingness to tolerate and ignore the plight of those at our doorstep who are still suffering the after-effects of years of institutional racism only to have it replaced by The barriers of income and educational disparity.
      If I were a person of color, I wouldn’t want to live in Westport even if I could afford it, and I wouldn’t want my kids to be the only children of color at schools with few or no black teachers or administrators.
      Westport is a fine town in many ways, but let’s be frank, it is a bastion of white privilege for a host of reasons which may have less to do with the personal attitudes of most of us towards race per se than with historical factors and the sort of benign neglect which is a characteristic of privilege.
      Last night’s event shone a spotlight on the problem, and it is the responsibility of every one of us to take the issue seriously until Westport truly becomes a place that anyone can move to.

      • Larry, Larry,
        In a capitalist society, to which most of us willingly, anxiously subscribe, disparities in wealth and education are a GIVEN. Are we now, after some 200 years plus, going to eschew capitalism because it has so successfully done what it is designed to do?

        • Dan,Dan
          This is not about capitalism. It’s about opportunity. Almost everyone understands that where one lives, which determines how one is educated, socialized, fed and has access to medical treatment is one of the best predictors of how one will fare in life, personally and economically. Increasing housing diversity and availability is a necessary first step. That’s why I support the P&Z initiative to do away with the multi-family cap and to permit accessory dwellings as of right where appropriate.

          • Isn’t success capital endeavor, Larry? Successful capitalist behavior is the major driver of opportunity here.. 830g, not to mention Section 8, is the opposite of capitalist driven opportunity, I think.

      • Larry, Larry, the principal of Staples high is a black man

        • So that’s one, even fewer than “few“, which is why I said “few or no”.

          • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

            Even in Westport (where money grows on trees and fools and their money are soon parted) it’s fiscally foolish to hire more than one black principal just to prove your diversity.

    • Saranda Berisa

      100 agree with this. Again these kinds of articles start more divide and the fact is, people moved here for open space. Not to live in the city, so planning and zoning really needs to back off on the urban sprawl agenda.

  2. Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    (Over) privileged white people have been complaining about Westport’s lack of diversity for many, many years. They know, deep down in places they don’t want to talk about at parties that if the situation ever changed they’d be the first ones to hop in their Range Rovers (after double parking to grab a Starbucks with no room, si vous plait) to head for whiter pastures before the real estate market tanked.

  3. Bill Strittmatter

    The irony is rich. Westport is all about open mindedness, support for diversity and all sorts of people and causes. Westporters will demonstrate on the bridge in support of George Floyd. Go to meetings like this. Congratulate kids for their TEAM essays. Self flagellate over white privilege. Display “Hate has no home here“ and “BLM” signs in their yards.

    Yes, Westporters will do pretty much anything and everything to demonstrate their wokeness…except when it comes to letting “those people” on the beach much less accepting affordable housing so they can live in town and go to school here and have the opportunities provided to our kids. Gasp, can’t let that happen…it would change the character of the town.

    Got it. Hate has no home here…but you can’t have one here either.

    The one thing that most agree can help break the cycle of poverty is educational opportunity for those that want it. While there are always exceptions, that is difficult to achieve when poverty is concentrated. Decades of just throwing money at poverty stricken school systems has, for whatever reason, demonstrated that isn’t a terribly effective answer.

    Westport is in a unique position to provide that opportunity given the strength of the education system. It’s almost as if Westport is an oversized elite private school – except for the lack of financial aid for those that can’t afford to live in town.

    But, but, but…Westport does that. Westport has a handful of handpicked ABC students, pats itself on the back and says job well done. Is that really enough? Many “middle class” people already stretch to live in Westport to get their kids a better education. Maybe helping some folks that can’t afford to do even that might actually start to make a difference.

    Will that mean more kids in the school system? Probably. Will that mean higher taxes? Maybe. But if that is what it takes to actually make a difference, why does that stop you.

    Talk is cheap. Doing something real generally has costs.

  4. There is on way to become a more diverse town… and it will not be by changing the P&Z rules to allow wealthy families to expand their pool houses… or build small apartments on the post road… THAT IS TO ME RACIST TO SAY THE LEAST.

    We can become a more diverse town by teaching inclusion, to teach our children to be kind and welcoming to the minority kids that already live or come to study in our town. Our classes have minority/diverse students… talk to your children about being kind and friendly to them. Talk to your children about how privileged they are and how we can help others by including them. Let’s have the school administration build a Diversity and Inclusion curriculum.

    Maybe that way, minority families will feel included in our town and will want to move here… not to somebody’s back yard pool house, but to their own house.

    • Werner Liepolt

      Would the teaching you recommend be done by Westport’s teachers? (Most of them have been priced out of the local housing market.)

  5. I grew up in the 50’s & 60’s and the # of Black folks was very limited, but for the most part, the student body at Saugatuck, Bedford Jr. High, and Staples were very inclusive. This probably having to do that Westport was still a bedroom community for many professionals in the arts & theater based in NYC who wanted their children to benefit from public school. However, my parents were from old Yankee stock, and they were probably a bit off put when I brought Gail Johnson home to play back in grade school. However, I don’t believe they let on at the time. They weren’t so supportive of my going out on a date with a very popular Black fellow when I was in high school.

    All that is history. It’s all about economics & public school excellence. All folks will aspire to live where their children will get the best education — but the cost of home-ownership is the key. I know what areas were considered entry-level housing in Westport 60 years ago and would probably be very, very surprised to see what the value of those properties are now (along the train track). Saugatuck was where the Italian immigrant families clustered. They were not welcomed by my ancestors. They worked hard; and at one time, 40 years ago, the Italian community owned the majority of the properties in Westport. Culturally, they believed in the value of property. Anyway, I digress.

    I moved away from the area over 20 years ago but still come back to visit my kids, and look forward to going down to Main St. with my daughter-in-law to shop and have lunch at Tavern on Main.

    Taking into consideration the current mortgage rates, could a first-time homeowner afford Westport? That’s the question.

  6. I am so glad this movement has begun to think of how to integrate Westport. The issue is not just economic, because there are plenty of wealthy Black, GLBTQ, Latinx, Indian, Muslim, and Asian people who could be here, but so far haven’t chosen to. How do we “recruit” these families to Westport? Roll out a multicolor, multiethnic welcome mat, so people of every race and creed know they will be safe and appreciated here? If it were up to me, I would integrate our school system with Norwalk’s to make our town more like American reality. Does anyone really believe Staples is a “better school” than Norwalk High? Kids just get higher scores because they have English-speaking parents with their own educational advantages who hire a slew of tutors to prepare for those tests.

    And, yes, more multi-unit housing that accommodates families–some low-income, some market rate. Not out along the Post Road East, but downtown, in Saugatuck, neighborhoods where people can walk around and bring Westport back to life. Starter condos for people from other towns. Downsize condos for our elderly who can’t or don’t want to manage giant houses anymore.

    We need to do whatever we can to break down our barriers.

  7. I encourage people to research the organization Desegregate CT (https://www.desegregatect.org/). They have proposed a variety of zoning reforms that they believe will help ease segregation in a measured way that improves communities – not high-rise low-income housing, not dozens of units of expensive condos and a handful of low-income units sequestered off to the side. Whether it would or not (I’m skeptical – it seems like it would mostly benefit wealthy, largely white property developers), their ideas (form based zoning in particular) should be of interest to anyone who cares about these issues.

  8. Excellent Dan Bill Mitchell

    Sent from my iPhone

  9. I encourage readers to view this story on Westport Now, specifically the comments recent Staples grad, Natasha Johnson’s and what she endured during her Westport schooling/education including her time at Staples. I find her comments extremely troubling and uncomfortable.

  10. So many good comments, opinions, and ideas. Dan Katz is spot on. Westport is guilty of one thing, being very good at attracting people who want to pay to live here. My family has been here since the 1910, each generation has seen more then the last. Most of it very good. This community has ALWAYS welcomed EVERYONE….There is no “STEERING” by any of our realtors -EVER….We have amazing diversity in houses of worship…we have tremendous support from all races, color, ethnicity when it comes to our schools, police, fire, arts, recreation….etc… Everyone gets something here…and regardless of our politics, when it comes time to volunteer, we do it as a community.
    There are really NO starter homes today, as they are demolished weekly. I’m trying to understand where these “Progressives” leaders in our State government are coming from.
    The color of GREEN is what is keeping people out of Westport more then anything.
    I went to school with kids of fireman, police, plumbers, doctors, shrinks (tone of em here all doing well) store owners, etc….Today that is not the case…who is to blame?
    Perhaps if these Progressives in Hartford did a better job managing the income tax wealth coming from affluent towns, more could be spent on educating and improving those school districts and towns not as fortunate as ours.
    I would love to see the money trail of Casino and income tax collected over the past 30 plus years!
    Good post Dan, and look forward to reading more comments.

    • I was very good friends, in the 1960s, with a family of six who lived on Bauer Place. The wife didn’t work, and the husband was a Westport fireman. This type of family doesn’t exist anymore in Westport. I knew a garbageman, as they were called back then, who lived on Old Road in the 1950s. I knew a family of three who lived in North Maple Ave, who earned $2,600 dollars in 1952. These types of stories don’t exist anymore!

      • David Schaffer

        Well no one can live on $2600 a year anymore, so, there is that.

        • David, True… but anyone could have lived in Westport in 1952, if they made $2,600 dollars for the year. Bauer Place houses sold for $3,000 when built.

    • A. David Wunsch

      Mr Izzo is wrong in stating that Westport has always welcomed everyone. It is well known that real estate brokers in the town did not show properties to Jews until the late 1940’s. He can check my statement here

      As a student at Staples from 1953 to 1956 I was aware of anti-Italian remarks by some of my fellow students, directed especially toward Italians from Saugatuck. I wish now that I had reproached some of the bigots.
      ADW Staples 56

      • ADW- my apologies ..you must’ve gone to school with my father Anthony and my Annette Doddo.

        • A.David Wunsch

          I remember “Red” Izzo who was a good basketball player. He would have graduated in 57 or 58.

      • Well though I thought otherwise for many decades now, apparently bigotry is not yet dead in Westport. A couple of months ago while taking advantage of one of the many Park and Rec facilities, a women and her friend came-up upon my wife and me in an enclosed space without the required mask that all else there were sporting at the time. When I reminded her of the Town’s requirement, I “overheard” her tell her friend as they walked away that I was “just one of those cranky Jews” – to which her friend replied, “Yes, he looks like one of those”. I am sure they would have been extremely disappointed to know the degree to which this native Saugatuck Italian took the compliment regarding our cultural cousins. It appears that absent the tomato sauce stain on the shirt, we don’t all look alike after all. Errant spaghetti on the side, however, the point is that there is still work to be done – even here in the land of self-professed tolerance.

        • A. David Wunsch

          As a cranky Jew, you gave me a good laugh. Jews and Italians play each other on the screen. Remember The Fonz played by Henry Winkler. And Al Pacino easily passes for a member of my tribe.
          ADW Staples 1956

      • Dorothy Broadman

        This comment about anti-semitism in Westport before 1940 is confusing to me. My grandparents bought property with another Jewish family in 1925 on Wilton Road near the Red Barn. The Greenberg’s were already in Westport and I recently learned that Scott Rose’s grandparents owned property then as well. My mother told me that due to the liberal influence of the artists community, Westport was one of few towns in the area that didn’t have “Gentlemen’s Agreement” and so Jews could buy property there. That’s why my family did in the 20’s. No problems encountered at that time. Perhaps it depended on the neighborhood?

        • A. David Wunsch

          The crux of the matter is that real estate agents would not show property to Jews. Jews did buy properties but typically an agent was not involved. See the link I placed in my earlier comment.

          • Dorothy Broadman

            Thanks for your response. I’ve read that link in the past. It just doesn’t align with the stories my Jewish mom told. There were more Jews in Westport compared to other towns nearby. My relatives understood Westport would accept them and other towns would not. Sounds like it was a mixed situation. But, it would be wrong to say that Jews were kept out because we were in Westport starting in the 20’s, maybe the teens as I don’t know when the Greenberg’s and Rose’s arrived.

            • “There were more Jews in Westport compared to other towns nearby. ”
              That’s true, you’ve doubtless heard the phrase :”An Aryan from Darien.”

              There were few Jews living in Westport when my family moved there in 1953 and there was no house of worship. To give you an idea of how provincial the town was, I must tell you this story:
              We bought our house from a Mrs. J on Compo Parkway . My mother explained to her that we were Jews and she wondered if we would feel comfortable in the town . She said to my mother that there was a family named Katz on a nearby street and said ” I think they are Jewish but am not sure . The children have red hair and I didn’t think Jews had red hair. My mom pointed out that both her father- in- law and my brother Jerry had red hair. ” So, Mrs. J had received a “teachable moment ” as people say these days.
              ADW Staples 1956

              • Dorothy Broadman

                Oh, I have my anti-semitic Westport stories. But, no point in sharing them now. True, there were few Jews before the large in-migration in the 50’s/60’s. But according to my mom, anti-semitism was not a big issue, like the other towns. She told me they had three options in CT in the 20’s, Greenwich, Westport and Hartford. They were NYers and chose Westport over Greenwich because it was a 3.5-hr. drive from NY on the Post Road and so its wonderful country life was well protected from development. People now complain about how much its changed since their time. Ha!

    • Kayla Robertson

      Nice dialogue. Unfortunately, nobody of color has interjected, so I will. White folks will never understand racism because they are never the subject of it. You can’t say Westport is open minded, inclusive, diverse, etc, because trust me it is not. Every store my wife walks into, every school my kids walk into, and in every neighborhood, racism is everywhere in Westport. As a white person you will never know because you don’t get ignored by sales associates who help white instead of colored folks, your kids won’t be ignored in schools by other students, your neighbors will talk to and get to know you instead of just giving you the Westport wave as they drive by. Why choose to live here then? It’s a good question, there are plenty of other places with excellent schools and nice recreational areas…
      if we all give in and just leave, then racism wins. Imagine if Dr King just gave up on his dream, or if Rosa Parks just gave up her seat. It’s not wealth that keeps us out – we could easily fill this town with all blacks or all browns, there are more than enough with the means. Most opt not to live here because it is not diverse, not inclusive, and because of the people here not a nice place for non-whites.

      • Dorothy Broadman

        Thank-you for joining the conversation and not giving up. You might be surprised by how much many white people understand about this. True, we don’t live it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t observe and be aware of it. The idea that it’s economics that keeps Westport white is absurd. There is a lot to overcome. Here’s to hoping it happens.

  11. Becky Schaefer

    re: zoning…

    I once worked with an exhibit designer at the Boston Museum of Science, who imparted some wisdom about inclusiveness. A small percentage of museum-goers use wheelchairs, and full accommodation to wheeled visitors is expensive, especially in a building designed without those visitors in mind. If you calculate your return on investment in a very narrow sense, you may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few people, and the accommodation seems like a hardship. But what actually happens when you design around wheelchairs is that almost *everyone’s* experience gets better. Parents aren’t struggling with strollers. People can bring their elderly parents with walkers. You are less exhausted at the end of the day (there is a name for standing all day in a low-humidity environment: museum fatigue) because you didn’t have to keep walking up stairs. The actual return on investment is huge.

    ADUs and more multi-family housing in general support older people living independently for longer, give options to students graduating into this very strange economy, grant flexibility to people trying to co-parent after a divorce. The zoning changes in the 80s allowing multifamily housing in Westport allowed me to move back here and support my father through a long illness.

    Antiracism (e.g. actively working against inequity) can and should stand by itself. Black homeowners face a series of discriminatory practices that fair housing law hasn’t eliminated (references: Long Island Divided, https://projects.newsday.com/long-island/real-estate-agents-investigation/; Black Homeowners Face Discrimination in Appraisals, New York Times Aug. 25, 2020 https://westportlibrary.org/resources/research-databases/). It takes active participation to change the systems that are preserving inequity. Zoning reform addresses inequity and, as a side benefit, improves the quality of life even in the groups of people not facing discrimination. Win-win.

  12. It’s really important that we separate skin color from class when we’re having these brave conversations. There are and have historically been multiple ways Black home-seekers with plenty of financial means have been made to feel unwelcome in Westport: I don’t know how many area realtors are Black, and I don’t know how many area realtors would be as warm and welcoming of a Black family (or LatinX, or Middle Eastern, or any other group that is discriminated against and stereotyped based solely on the melanin they carry in their skin and eyes) as they would a white family. Our responsibility is to ensure that ALL families who want to (and can afford to) make Westport their home are made to feel welcome here, from how they are treated at grocery stores, to how their kids of all ages are treated when walking in a residential neighborhood, to what homes they are shown. This much-more insidious brand of racism cannot be subsumed by arguments against multi-family or government-assisted housing: it’s squarely on us to check our own assumptions and biases, and treat people with the same courtesy we’d want our family to be treated. If we can manage this, over time, greater representation of middle and upper-class Black families will assist Westport in being more diverse as well as being on the right side of history.

  13. I grew up on Roosevelt Rd, in the Compo Beach area. Anyone who can afford to live in Westport , . . . . .
    Can live in Westport .

  14. I grew up in CosCob in the 50s. New England has always been the same. They don’t build lower income housing in wealthy areas, that often. They want to keep it a certain way. Only very few can afford affluence.

  15. This has been such great processing — everyone is thinking. I love reading the comments of folks who grew up in Westport in the 50’s & 60’s. I too grew up on Roosevelt Road in the house my father & uncle grew up in. Every day after school was like Outward Bound. Keep the dialogue going. I’vebeen living here in Naples, FL since 1998. Recently traded in foundation, blush & lipstick for a mask. Other than not being able to travel up there to see my grands, life is very good. But this too is a community that doesn’t offer adequate affordable housing for teachers, nurses, front-line folks. There just aren’t any easy answers. Jimmy Izzo hit the nail on the head — better distribution of state & county tax revenue. All children deserve a good education — especially the Bridgeport kids.

  16. Well said, for those who want more black just go and live in Africa, for those who want more brown just go and live in Mexico. You want change, change yourself, don’t change the lives of the rest of us.

  17. Bill Strittmatter

    Where are the Westport voices actually wanting to help someone? That actually want to do something about diversity? That actually want to do something about the economic inequality that either underlies (or results from) systemic racism? I’ve heard a few, but not nearly the number that typically turn out to demonstrate on the bridge.

    Sure, Westport will welcome anyone that can afford to live in town. You want a cookie for that? And recruiting rich people of color to provide diversity to the town? Seriously? Other than patting yourselves on the back for open mindedness, that helps solve the problem exactly how? But changing zoning to maybe allow some real diversity? Yeah, don’t think so.

    If you can’t bring yourselves to change zoning, merging school districts with Norwalk was an excellent suggestion though. Better yet, a Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Bridgeport unified school system. The bus ride to/from Bridgeport isn’t unmanageable – just ask the folks that work around town.

    But…crickets. Westporters are happy to do their part to solve systemic racism, as long as it doesn’t impact them personally. I know. Let’s go march on the bridge this weekend to protest the shooting of Dijon Kizzee. That will displace the cognitive dissonance.

    • Another excellent reply Bill, thank you. Speaking of the ‘Westport Voices’, where is this group? From the recent protest in front of Starbucks;

      Darcy Hicks, of DefenDemocracy of CT, who organized the first rally, said it was important Westporters stand in solidarity with Rodriguez.

      “As a largely white and privileged community, we’re obligated to stand up and speak out against racism,” she said.

  18. Leave our town alone this is the way we live we don’t want multi family urban housing take your B.S. somewhere else

    • Hey VB, Ever hear of a run- on sentence? Look up the meaning and then read the comment you wrote.

      • A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses (also known as complete sentences) are connected improperly.

  19. “Why is Westport so white?” This is the wrong question. Question itself is racist to begin with, and it doesn’t do justice to the town. Skin color isn’t everything. In terms of diversity of opinions and beliefs, Westport is a rainbow and quintessential American.

    The right question is “Why is Westport so unaffordable?” This is where the divide is, and the root cause is the unrelenting forces to chip away buying power of Middle class Americans. Stagnant wages and rising costs make a solid middle life like good schools and safe neighborhoods increasingly out of reach for many.

    I am an Asian who has lived in town for more than 20 years. From my experiences I can testify that racism is rarely an issue, and most people in town are more than gracious. The problem is the price of entry: the ticket price is so high. I have been paying it with 20 years of hard labor and continue paying it. I am a commuter to the City, and I know I am not alone. No matter the weather, the train platform is crowded and the 6am train is packed. I saw the same crowd getting of the t8:30pm train home. 14 or 15 hour day is the norm for us if the trains run smoothly. I have no complaints as I understand this is the price to pay for a better future for my kids. But, I do have longing for the bygone days where everyone Middle class can afford a place like Westport.

  20. To the extent that racism is thriving in America, I agree Westport is quintessentially American. The meaningless words of a few dozen liberals on this board do not overshadow the actions of the other 99% of town. I am dark skinned and I can assure you that those with dark skin – black or brown – experience racism here every single day. It completely astounds me that so many here will publicly say the opposite, based on their own experiences of not having dark skin. This is exactly why we never make any progress against racism in this country. There is a problem. It is prevalent. It thrives in white communities like Westport. Paying lip service to the issue, or downplaying its existence, perpetuate the problem. I’m glad You have not experienced any racism as an Asian, but racism holds a special place in her heart for dark skinned people.

    • Unfortunately, Alex, you are correct about “American racism.” It is that systemic evil that will put the Republic destroying Trump back in office this November.

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      So if I get your gist, racism is only “deplorable” when experienced by people of black color. Other peoples of color, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Muslims and other minor league minorities must keep their mouths shut (and their pocketbooks open) until the aggrieved African American Community of Westport gives the all clear. It must be lonely in that Ivory tower.

      • Eric, please do your homework before you look really uninformed and on the wrong side of history in front of more people. You can start with something easy – just watch RACE: The Power of an Illusion on YouTube. Or maybe 13th, the movie by Ava DuVernay.

        Yes – anyone who can’t pass for white is treated as a lower-class citizen in this country. That is white supremacy, or upholding a myth of light-skin superiority, and our country’s labor force is still built on it. But the darker one’s skin, the worse the treatment, due to a complex number of factors including slavery, the way dark-skinned people were dehumanized to rationalize it, the perceived threat when Black people became free and entered the labor force, the stereotypes that were created and upheld to demonize them and make them seem more sexual and more criminal. Mass incarceration depends on Black bodies to make its billions of dollars, police use 2.5 times more lethal force on black men than on white, and an innocent Black man is 12 times more likely to be convicted of a drug crime than a white man.

        It’s time for white men such as yourself to step up and start educating yourself rather than sounding so fearful and misinformed.

        • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          Hi Mara,
          Puhleeze save the lectures, the condescension and the sanctimony for the “useful idiots” that can’t see it for what it is. With all due respect, when it comes to racism, prejudice and hate, there is no hierarchy of minority status. A crime to an Asian is no less a crime. An African American living in relative bliss in Westport can’t speak with the same authority as a Latino or Asian trapped in Bridgeport or locked out of Harvard. Give the guilt tripping a rest.

          • I’m sorry you see the offering of information as guilt-tripping and condescension. On one hand you are right: discrimination is discrimination, no matter the target. But what do you accomplish by generalizing – how does it help dismantle or end racism? Doesn’t it just make it seem like a much bigger problem so you can throw your hands up and say there’s nothing to be done about it?

            I’d love to meet a Black family living in “relative bliss” in Westport. White privilege and class privilege are not the same, and if this thread makes anything clear, it’s that having $$ or an education does not mean a Black person will be treated with warmth, dignity and respect here. I think you can probably admit that.

            Structural racism affects Americans more as our skin gets darker. That is a fact. If we truly, fully admitted that one group of human beings is being stereotyped, ostracized, brutalized, overpoliced and incarcerated in order for others of us to rise, and that there are absolutely, scientifically, unequivocally ZERO differences between us beyond skin color, we would have found our outrage and found a way to end structural racism by now. We buy into racist stereotypes or make the kinds of immobilizing generalizations you just did so we can turn our heads and our backs, to allow us to feel separate enough from Black people that we can tell ourselves we’re not implicated in their mistreatment. Racism cannot persist without so many “well-meaning” people deciding it just isn’t their fight.

  21. Names are required. And thousands of racist laws and practices never mention race. Your argument is an excuse, and you know it.

  22. Full names are required. And thousands of racist laws and practices never mention race. Your argument is an excuse, and you know it.

  23. No one should pay the slightest attention to an annoymous posting as it is either salacious or destructive, or a name would attend it.

  24. BTW, since this keeps on a goin’, I am vexed and surprised that our HS principal has not so much as commented, no less suggested some actions to ameliorate the situation regarding attiudes said to be held by many at the school. If that is not a key role of ANY HS principal, what the hell is.

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      He’s in a tough spot. As the recently appointed high school principal of perhaps the most prominent, progressive and “woke” community in the US it’s kind of tough to bite the townspeople that feed you. On the other hand, silence may equivocate to some as “pulling up the ladder” and leaving others to fend for themselves. What’s the answer? In my opinion it’s judge not lest ye be judged which may be why our Principal has stayed out of the mud wrestling. That’s a concept that may be a growth opportunity for “progressive” whites in Westport.

      • Though your point is understood, Eric, balls are balls, right is right and cowardice is cowardice.

        • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          Dan, I don’t know the new principal. but My guess is that as the “new kid in town” he’s focusing on his job which isn’t to provide situational awareness to the woke.

          • Kudos Eric. The townspeople are not liking the truth/mirror they see.About time.

            • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

              James, as the saying goes: The more things change the more they stay the same.

            • There is simply no excuse, new guy in town, afraid of rustling feathers, not wanting to take sides, NO EXCUSE for the leader of an institution in the center of such an important conflagration, not to jump in and comment.
              The decision to stay out of the discussion says more about the man than any acclaims he may have garnered in the past.

              • Adam Schwartz '75

                Dan, I can’t believe my eyes! You’re “vexed and surprised”? The last time I checked, we live in America where free speech is King. You actually believe the H.S. principal must answer to this blog because his name came up or someone made a comment about schools? So using your thought process, every Westport City employee should monitor 06880 to answer every comment made about the city? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more arrogant comment on here. I really hope you’re just having a bad day!

                • Adam, every town employee is NOT the leader of an educational institution. The blog talks about racism in our HS and, since the principal of that place is surely charged with, among many other tasks, that of seeing that the edcational process in that place includes talking about racism and racial attitudes, I though, for certain, he would make a comment. As to freedom of speech, sir, I was not suggesting he be FORCED to comment….just wishing he had and surprised he chose not to.

  25. Do we know that he reads this blog, for sure, or that he’s aware of this thread? And although I agree that it would be great for him to weigh in, why should he be expected to speak out – or called out when he doesn’t – more than anyone else? Because he’s Black and should therefore “represent” for Westport in some way?

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      It’s pretty telling that “y’all” are castigating this man just because he is focusing on his job as opposed to wasting everybody’s time by engaging in self-righteous posturing on race relations with those of you who opine endlessly and hypothetically from the cheap seats of White Privilege.. Perhaps he feels that since he is black and was chosen for a position of leadership of a first rate high school from what certainly must have been a broad spectrum of talent that there is little basis to criticize the people of Westport for being “systemically racist.” He is the living refutation of systemic racism and that must drive you nuts.

      What bothers you more? Is it that he doesn’t curry your favor or that he has earned his position without needing or wantingyour largesse?

      • Right, Eric – just like Obama cured racism. One and done. Thank goodness.

        • Eric, In what universe is it not a school principal’s job to lessen racial divides and change racist attitudes in his school. You obviously do not have a fucking clue about a principal’s job description. I will try to locate mine from years ago when I was one.

          • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

            Hi Dan,
            You were wise to change careers. This assumes you had any say in the decision which, based on your level of discourse is a big assumption indeed.

  26. I’m really curious, Eric, as to just why you don’t see the end of racial tensions in a school as at least one of the primary responsibilities of a school leader.
    Even assuming, as your posts would indicate, that you, personally, do not give a damn about such tensions.s

    • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      First of all, let’s put first things first. I never denied the existence of racial tension. It’s long been pervasive and seems to move from the back of the bus to existential threat every time the Democrats run out of talking points. As far as you’re concerned, maybe I’m missing your point (or maybe you’re missing your point) but it seems your biggest “issue” is dissatisfaction with a brand new principal who has chosen to focus on his core duty which is running his school (learning how one of the best high schools in the country got that way). Most reasonable people would say that Covid19 is the most imminent current threat to the well being of our society. This gentleman is right smack in the middle of it. As a trained educator, or at least someone who once carried an NEA union card, I’m sure you’ve heard about Maslow’s theory. You have to deal with the most imminent existential threat and move up the pyramid from there. As you would certainly agree, white racism will surely be around after Covid19 has passed. This brand new principal is not only dealing with that, but is also trying to figure out how to realign his resources at Staples so that learning can continue to occur. Certainly you must acknowledge that if those two priorities are addressed first the legitimate focus on racial injustice in Westport and elsewhere can be dealt with more expeditiously. I’m extremely impressed that you were once a high school principal and are willing to fall back on a past job description from your youth. As you revisit it to make your point, please consider that anyone can adhere to a job description but a true leader deals with the elements of the job that you won’t find in the user’s manual.

      This has been a kick and I’ve enjoyed it. Doubtful that you’ll want to do this or that the Staples principal will have the time but maybe a phone call to take your rear echelon wisdom to a soldier who’s on the front line would be a good idea on your part. After you’ve done that’s and cleaned up his act Westport will be the wiser for it.

      • Nice, logical note, Eric…still, I wish he’d see how a comment from him would alleviate the impression(albeit, perhaps, my impression alone) that he is staying above the fray for reasons other than prioritized duties.
        Over and out.

        • Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

          I’ve not intended to beat a dead horse. Based on what I’ve read about this individual from Dan’s blog I can’t imagine that he hasn’t got deep experience with white racism. As he builds familiarity with the town I would bet that he will welcome the opportunity of sharing it. As my Staples teachers taught me (and that I rarely listened to) there is a time and a place for everything. I’m sure that by now he’s read this blog and will share his insight when he feels it’s right.

          Please accept my kindest regards.

          • Under and in, I guess.
            You may well be correct and, I am a bit embarrassed to say, I had not even thought of that possibility….or likelihood.

  27. Dorothy Broadman

    Thankfully, there are now plenty of African Americans who can afford Westport. But, they choose not to. Based on what African Americans have said, we know that they don’t feel welcomed (unless they’re so light skinned no one knows) and they don’t want to deal with the day-to-day harassment. Westport needs to show that it’s serious about breaking down barriers and addressing its racist history. How about starting by renaming the significant places named for slaveowners as a way to show the town is changing. That would include Coley(town) Schools, Jessup (Green), Sherwood (Island – state level), Burr Farms School. Can you imagine being Black and sending your child to Coleytown, or going to a concert at Jessup Green? At least put up some historical plaques to recognize the history. Would anyone tolerate a “Hilter Lane” in Westport?

  28. Just an observation: it happens all too often in conversations on race that white people re-route them to another marginalized identity we can relate to, such as being Jewish or LGBTQ. Let’s not do that here.

    • Dorothy Broadman

      Not re-routing. I agree that often happens, but I’m not seeing it here. It looks to me like the great majority of the conversation is about race and we’ve stayed on topic with a lot of good conversation and ideas. Small conversation about Jews in Westport. Didn’t see what has been discussed about LGBTQ+ but I’m doubting it’s much. That seems okay to me.

  29. Ronald Franzese


  30. First of all, when you use all caps it’s the print version of yelling at us. Please don’t do that.

    Second, thank you for representing people who want to believe racist stereotypes rather than question them. Because if you questioned them, you’d know that the 50/13 statistic is a myth perpetuated to uphold white superiority, and that it is poverty that correlates with higher crime, not skin color. Due to systemic racism, mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of Black people, many poor folks are also people of color in this country. Poor and Black communities are policed more than wealthy communities that are often also white, leading to more arrests. An innocent Black man is 12 tines more likely to be arrested for a drug crime than an innocent white man. 75% of people in prison are only there because they can’t make bail or haven’t been sentenced or tried yet: they haven’t been convicted of anything. Your beloved statistic is in itself reflective of racism in the US.

    Somehow, I’m guessing none of this matters to you, that youre just going to think what you’re going to think no matter what evidence is produced to the contrary. I’m sorry you have to live with that kind of hatred and fear.



  31. Ronald Franzese



    That is my last word in reply to your uninformed and fear-based posts.
    Love, your liberal from afar.

  33. Ronald Franzese