In response to the uproar that followed announcement of TEAM Westport’s 9th annual Teen Diversity Essay Contest, Harold Bailey — chair of the town’s multiculutral organization — issued this statement:
In TEAM Westport’s 19-year history, there is no initiative of which we are more proud than the annual Teen Diversity Essay Contest.
Over the past 8 years, it is also the initiative which has garnered the greatest acclaim and respect for the town of Westport. From school systems regionally, statewide, and nationally to CNN, the stature of the town has been raised and the town has responded to the insights of its youth with a combination of respect, pride and (often) awe.
In general, the awe has been due to the breath-taking courage and talent required of winning essayists to deliver their searing insights with genuinely brilliant language. Those insights have included first-hand accounts of the impact of “othering” written by White, Black, Asian-American, Latinx, etc. students providing their voices on aspects of race, religion, ethnicity and LGBTQ-IA+ (TEAM Westport’s focus areas by charter). We invite you to read all 25 winning essays at www.westportct.gov/essays.
Now, through a combination of website and emails, anonymous source(s) have declared that
- Insights from African-American, Asian-American, Latinx and White students about the toxicity of racial micro-aggressions on their lives and their peers were racist.
- A White student’s exposition of her marginalization due to the “dumb blonde” stereotypes was unconstitutional.
- The frank discussion of the marginalization faced by an LGBTQ-IA+ student after coming out was un-American.
Essentially, these anonymous source(s) contend that the Town of Westport should be outraged that these voices were ever heard and ensure that no others are heard in the future.
That contention is patently absurd and diametrically opposed to the town of Westport’s “Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” ratified by the Board of Selectmen (including our current first aelectwoman) on October 13.
It is one thing to criticize adults with a viciousness including accusations of Nazi-ism, but far more troubling to dismiss the insights of our children as ideology trolling for dollars while bullying future participants and their parents.
The TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest was created to give teens in our community an opportunity to reflect on, express, and open up constructive conversations about race and identity based on each teen’s lived experience. If you support the Teen Diversity Essay Contest and its continuation, there are two ways you can help:
- Say so. Send an email addressed to the RTM (RTM-DL@westportct.gov), Board of Selectmen (email@example.com), Board of Education (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Superintendent of Schools (email@example.com).
- Contribute. TEAM Westport receives no funding from the town of Westport. All contest prizes are funded via independent contributions. Tax deductible contributions may be made via to TEAM Westport, c/o Department of Finance, Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.