Falmouth residents weighing in Monday on a resolution acknowledging systemic racism in town represented two views – those in favor of it and those saying it is divisive and unnecessary because racism is not a town issue.

The resolution states that Falmouth and Maine have benefited from slavery and that the town condemns acts of racism and commits to exploring policies to promote racial equity in town. Work on the resolution began last year.

High school senior Cali Minnehan was among seven residents speaking in support of the resolution at the Town Council meeting.

“I’ve faced racism from my peers. When I told my friend that I was a Latina I was told I couldn’t be her friend,” Minnehan said. “Another classmate told me to go back to Mexico. I’m Colombian.” 

“I don’t want the future students of color to feel the way I have and think this is normal because it’s not,” she said.

Minnehan said she hopes the resolution will lead to changes and that she wants “students of color in Falmouth to feel welcome.”

Five residents spoke against the resolution.

“This presents an incomplete at best, if not false, narrative that the U.S. and Falmouth were founded in racism,” said Josh Filler. There is “a level of arrogance in this resolution that ignores the enormous price that has been paid to fight and defeat that racism – 625,000 died in the Civil War.” 

Other residents argued racism is a national issue.

Scott Williams said the resolution “brings problems outside of Falmouth into our town.”

“I have not yet heard of any single issue of anyone in this town. You are creating a division,” John Winslow said.

Town Councilor Janice DeLima said her children, who are of Asian descent, have faced racism in the schools, and also that while she was campaigning she heard concerns about racism from Black families in town.

Minnehan said racism is not “a higher-level issue.”

“This is local,” she said. “It’s everyone’s issue, and it’s important we acknowledge that it’s not a problem for the federal government. Everyone needs to know this is a problem.”

The resolution reaffirms that town officials will seek to address systemic racism by reviewing town policies and housing costs, working with the police department on its policies and practices and by teaming with schools on the issue. It also commits to diversifying town boards and positions, though without a specific benchmark.

“The council has done a good job to make the statement and also articulate action. It’s the next steps that will be very important,” resident Karen Farber said.

The council will vote on the resolution at a future meeting.

“Falmouth is only as strong as the people who make up our community,” resident Bryce Hach said. “For us to be forward-thinking, we are going to need to have a very welcoming culture that can retain talent from all walks of life.”

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