SCARBOROUGH — Members of the public on Oct. 7 told the Scarborough Town Council that its approval of a resolution against racial and social injustice is a good first step on the local level in addressing the issue.

The resolution, which Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina read aloud, said that Maine is living through a transformational time, along with the rest of the world, in a movement to address systemic racism and improve the quality of life for Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.

“(W)e understand that when it comes to racial and social justice, silence is not an option,” said the resolution. “We recognize that we have a responsibility to advocate for positive change and demonstrate our commitment to racial equity in our areas of influence. We condemn racism in any form, have zero tolerance for discrimination, and pledge to participate in authentic dialogues about race, diversity, equity and inclusion, and we will advocate for positive change and focus on the critical work of anti-racism.”

The Town Council will commit to a continuous evaluation of its own practices, ensuring they live up to the values of racial equity, the resolution said. Scarborough will make sure there is education for citizens and municipal employees about the negative impacts of social inequity.

“With openness, humility and respect, we can learn from each other and from the community where we live and work,” the resolution said.

Caterina said that a friend of Councilor Betsy Gleysteen’s drafted the resolution, which councilors approved unanimously.

Councilor Don Hamill said that the resolution reflects racial issues unique to the town and state of Maine’s challenges.

“Some of our problems are worse than other states, and our representation is low,” he said. “And I think there’s a higher bar for us to try and get over in terms of our raising and understanding awareness in committing to the real work that needs to be done and that we all need to be a part of.”

The resolution is a starting point for the Town Council to take in standing against racial and social injustice, said Councilor John Cloutier.

“Some of these issues are deep-rooted and historic and they’re not solved overnight,” he said. “But you have to start somewhere, and I think this is as good a place as any to start. I’d love to see us become a more representative and diverse council, but you can’t just make that happen overnight.”

Public commenters said that they approve of the resolution as well.

One resident, Randi Hogan, said that some Mainers might not see racism as a local issue because they live in a predominantly white state.

“In fact racial injustice is a sad reality in Maine,” she said. “We now know that Maine has the nation’s worst COVID-19 racial disparity. That’s due to longstanding inequities and health care and infrastructure and other critical services that contributed to this and other disparities.”

While some people may not see racial inequity as a local problem, many residents in Scarborough believe it is a moral issue that warrants a response from the town, said Jon Anderson, who lives on Owens Way.

“At a local level I believe we have responsibility to commit to positive change and improve inclusion, access to opportunities, and quality of life for Black, Indigenous, and people of color,” he said. “Systemic racism may impact how our town responds to coronavirus, how we approach development and growth, what we include in our ordinances, and the decisions we make about our schools.

He added, “Scarborough is not immune to racism, and now is an opportune time to reflect and have an open and honest discussion and ask how we can be better.”

Frayla Tarpinian, a resident who said she is the mother of two Black individuals, was grateful to the council for the statements.

“Thank you for deciding to stand up and acknowledge the harm of racism and recognize that remaining silent is not an option,” she said. “Until we challenge the systems that allow racism to flourish, we will not be able to progress.”

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