NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectman George Colby said in a letter to the Lakes Region Weekly this week that the effort to recall him is reflective of the “cancel culture” that is “infecting” the country.

“I stand accused of racism for a comment that was not racist,” Colby wrote, referring to a Dec. 3 selectmen meeting when at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, he said, “Liberty and justice for all, for everyone. Even us white folks!”

Colby said that since his comment “wasn’t racist, I’m not going to apologize for saying it. I exercised my freedom of speech and expressed my dismay at the state of America, my frustration that people are trying to tear down America.”

He wrote that this “dismay was falsely condemned as racist” by resident Laura Fralich in her opinion piece printed in the Sun Journal.

Fralich, a member of the Facebook group New Gloucester United Against Racism, wrote that “white grievance is racism.”

Fralich said Tuesday that the recall petitioners are “not trying to tear down America but rather create a more equitable, inclusive and just country and community for all races.”

“Hiding behind the catchphrase of ‘cancel culture’ disregards the accountability that we all have for our words and actions and the need to take responsibility for the harm that they can cause,” said Fralich, a teacher at Gray-New Gloucester High School.

Colby said the recall petitioners’ “agenda is far more malicious,” than simply “canceling” him.

“They’re also attacking you and a free America,” he wrote.

“The direction that our beautiful country has been going in is tragic,” Colby said, adding: “America is being accused of racism.”

He cited the New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” per the New York Times website.

The “1619 Project” has often been invoked by conservative and right-wing politicians such as former President Donald J. Trump as being synonymous with, according to Trump, “radical” Americans’ attack on “whiteness,” rejection of patriotism and incitement of “hateful lies about this country.”

Colby also referred to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Godly vision,” in which King was “a brave and righteous man who knew that God loves every person without any regard at all for the color of their skin.”

Colby made no mention of a 2010 email exchange between him and then-Selectman Joshua McHenry in which Colby used a racial slur.

“I went to Walmart and saw they had Obama Christmas tree ornaments. Now ain’t that a (expletive)???? Suddenly it’s OK to hang a (expletive) from a tree again,” Colby wrote in an email to McHenry dated Dec. 16, 2010.

The town supplied the Lakes Region Weekly with copies of these emails earlier this month in response to a Freedom of Access Act request. McHenry also confirmed the emails were authentic last month, but said he no longer had the originals.

A petition signed by 335 residents was submitted to the town clerk last week to recall Colby and awaits certification from the town clerk and Board of Selectmen. If certified, the recall question will go to a special election. Fifty-five percent of voters must approve to remove Colby from his position.

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