FBI director James Comey lives at one of the most elite addresses in Westport — a very white suburb to begin with.
But speaking yesterday at Georgetown University, he addressed race relations in stark terms.
The Washington Postdescribed Comey as a “Teller of Hard Truths,” who called the nation “at a crossroads.” The Post quoted him:
As a society, we can choose to live our everyday lives, raising our families and going to work, hoping someone, somewhere, will do something to ease the tension — to smooth over the conflict. We can turn up the music on the car radio and drive around these problems. Or we can choose to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today — what it should be, what it could be, and what it needs to be — if we took more time to better understand one another.
The Post added, “Comey laid out a number of hard truths on race — a rare move for such a high-profile white law enforcement official, or even a law-enforcement official, period.”
FBI director — and Westport resident — James Comey.
The New York Times said that the “unusually candid” speech was “well received by law enforcement officials.” The Times continued:
Citing the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway show “Avenue Q,” he said police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently. (Comey added) that some officers scrutinize African-Americans more closely using a mental shortcut that “becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights” because black men are arrested at much higher rates than white men.
Click here to read Comey’s entire, groundbreaking speech. Or watch it below:
Several years ago, a black couple was strolling near Longshore. A Westport police officer stopped them, then questioned them about a recent robbery in the area.
The man and woman wore typical Westport weekend walking clothes. They were middle-aged. It was clear the only reason they were stopped was because of their color.
They told the policeman they lived nearby, expecting a profuse apology. Instead they got attitude. Weren’t they glad, the officer asked, that he was helping protect their neighborhood?
TEAM Westport members
Some Westporters may think Thursday’s TEAM Westport forum — “The Gates Incident: Could It Happen Here?” (Westport Library, 7:30 p.m.) — is an exercise in liberal, feel-good futility. Of course the Westport police would never arrest a black man in his own home, as the Cambridge police did this summer with the eminent Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates.
Thursday’s forum should be a good one. Police Chief Al Fiore will begin by describing Westport’s approach to the kinds of issues that triggered the Cambridge incident.
A facilitator will then open up the meeting. Any participant may suggest a topic for discussion. After all topics are posted, attendees move around the room to whichever topic they wish to pursue. Each small group then reports on its principal conclusions at the end of a predetermined time.
The more people talk — openly and honestly — about issues like race (and ethnicity and sexuality, all part of TEAM Westport’s charge as the town’s official committee on diversity), the more people learn. And the more we learn, the less chance there is for confrontation to escalate into crisis.
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