Answering the Call to Racial Justice
Whether discussing housing, public safety, education, or climate action, we must address the ongoing and unconscious effects of systemic racism in our city and its residents of color. Growing up in Newton, I learned how racism is bigger than individual prejudice. It’s having few classmates of color in high-level classes. It’s upholding a system of exclusionary zoning that impedes racial minorities from living here. Newton doesn’t work if it doesn’t work for everyone. That’s why I’m concerned about the following:
1. We must reimagine what public safety looks like in our city.
We must reevaluate what “public safety” means to our community. Black and Latinx residents are seven and two times more likely to face an officer-initiated field interrogation than white residents. We should not have had to wait for the events in Minneapolis to begin confronting the physical and emotional harms policing has on our residents of color, as well as our LGBTQ+ and disabled neighbors.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge to our city’s budget, it is also an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities in line with our life-affirming values. When our city’s Police Reform Task Force releases their formal recommendations, the Council must review and enforce them with urgency. It is crucial that we provide law enforcement with the tools they need to pursue a problem-solving approach based in research and evidence that sets an example of 21st-century public safety for other municipalities to follow. As your Councilor, I will critically examine our policing budget, looking to reallocate resources to underfunded social services.
2. I will elevate the voices of our residents of color and pursue equity at all levels.
Our city must not only recognize its own history of racial discrimination–namely as the damage done to Newton’s Black households from the construction of the Mass Pike in 1962–but declare it as the public health emergency that is decimating people today. We must affirm our commitment to fight for justice and demonstrate it through our actions.
If we want more residents of color to live and feel welcome in Newton, it needs to be easier to afford living here, not just be free of discrimination in the law. We must advocate for affordable housing and revise zoning practices which keep our city’s doors shut. We also must make it easier for residents of color to start and operate businesses here and make sure that programs like recreation and community education are accessible in terms of cost and hours of operation.
On the Council, I will actively promote minority-run businesses for city contracting and development. For centuries, inequitable municipal contracting has played a role in upholding systemic injustice. I believe that the government has the obligation to advance equity using every tool at its disposal, especially its purchasing power. We must actively engage minority-owned businesses for our contracts and development projects and think critically about how city spending can advance equity.
As your Councilor, I will also actively seek out minority perspectives and join other Councilors to give our city’s activists a platform. Groups like Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ) and Newton Overdue, and the will always have a seat at my table. Through constituent services, community conversations, and votes on the Council, I will always strive to make Newton a safer, more welcoming city for people of color.
3. We must ensure an equitable recovery from COVID-19.
People of color, especially the Black community, have been hit harder by COVID in both infection and unemployment rates, and we must acknowledge this with future relief and recovery policy and understand how this pandemic has impacted populations of our city differently, from the disproportionate number of families of color in the Distanced Learning Academy (DLA) cohort and rates of unemployment and job insecurity for people of color, especially women of color. As we work to aid our residents with rent assistance, support our local businesses, enforce public health precautions and advocate for students and families, we must always prioritize racial equity.
4. We must prevent incidents of racial discrimination and bias and take them seriously when they occur.
I am committed to supporting our Asian American neighbors who play such a vital role in making our community thrive. Acts of hate and violence against Asian-Americans have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a public official, I will dedicate myself fully to calling out acts of racism or xenophobia and being an ally to Asian-Americans in our city.
I will support colleagues on the School Committee in working to make sure that students of color feel safe and welcomed in our schools. When a hate incident occurs in Newton, clear protocols need to be in place and consequences must be enforced. I will also work to ensure that every Newton Public Schools student has the same access to classes and extracurriculars regardless of where they live or how much wealth they come from. I will specifically work to achieve educational equity for our METCO students and students experiencing housing insecurity.