On October 15, an off-duty Brookline PD officer and his family had an altercation with 4 BHS students. After extensive investigation and soul searching for the most responsible way to report on this situation, mindful of the young people involved and the community as a whole, we published the news of the incident on October 25.
Three weeks have passed since the incident. When the Brookline PD investigation results are released, it will be up to the Town to determine:
- What did the young teens in the situation do and what should we have expected of them?
- What did the adults in the situation do and what should we have expected of them?
- Can the Town institutions involved make improvements to help reduce the likelihood of these types of incidents happening in the future?
Then I believe we need to deal with the situation and move on to the bigger issue. Recently, our town experienced troubling incidents ranging from this situation, to situations that resulted in the firings of two Brookline firefighters, to the unfortunate way discipline for a transformative elementary school teacher was handled, to a race speech incident by students at BHS and one by firefighters at Brookline FD. These situations, which many of us don’t want to think about, have not happened in a vacuum.
It would be easy to blame what happened on October 15 on one individual; nothing makes people more secure when troubling events happen than finding a villain to blame. We find a villain, punish or humiliate them and we somehow think all our problems are solved.
We implore our community to resist this temptation. Yes, if it is determined that a Town employee acted wrongfully in this situation, action must be taken. But looking for villains and scapegoating people for all our society’s woes does not serve the greater good.
Since our article was published we’ve heard a great deal from two groups. One group seems to believe the Town has made no progress in terms of treating people equally in the last 50 years. The other seems to believe Brookline is a community with no issues concerning equality. The one similarity between the two sides is neither is listening to the other.
Life for people who weren’t white, straight, male, or born into wealth was infinitely worse on the day I was born in 1958 than it is today. With each decade there has been progress, even if that progress has seemed unbearably slow at times. An example of this progress can be seen in this year’s presidential race. A black man leads the polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination and a white woman leads the polls for the Democrats. In 1968, those two people wouldn’t have been allowed to marry in over 50% of the states in the U.S. and a serious presidential run by either of them would have been considered laughable.
Locally, we’ve also made progress. Thanks to the tireless efforts of many residents (including those who’ve drawn our attention to injustices in our community) and dedicated people in BrooklinePD, Town Government, and our school system, Brookline is one of the best places to live in the U.S. for all people. That is an undeniable fact.
But we shouldn’t think for a moment things are the way they’re supposed to be and that we shouldn’t be further along. In my view, part of what slows us down is our unwillingness to see the world through each other’s eyes, or examine why we see things differently than people of other socio-economic backgrounds.
I found fault in my own belief system recently when I reexamined my recent editorial on taking back the word “freedom.” In it I wrote, “We are all descendants of immigrants who sought freedom and better lives for their families.” But actually, some of us are descendents of slaves who had their freedom stripped away and were taken to our shores in bondage and kept in bondage their whole lives. It’s so easy to think of oneself as evolved, yet still make unenlightened slights toward others. We are all products of what we’ve been taught. I believe we need to constantly challenge what we believe to be true so that we can be more open to the experiences of others.
So who is at fault in the October 15 incident at BHS?
Trite as it may seem, maybe we are all to blame, which means we need to be the key players in making things better. We have to acknowledge we’ve come a long way in Brookline, appreciating those who are trying to make our Town a better place, while also acknowledging we need to redouble our efforts.
At BrooklineHub.com, we are going to try to report on the incredible success stories of Brookline’s residents, businesses, non-profits, and institutions, while refusing to ignore instances that bring us shame.
This is on all of us, no exceptions. Let’s listen to each other when we debate best ways to move forward and try our best to be introspective.
I feel compelled to say again what I published earlier this year:
Maybe we can’t fix the world, but shame on us if we ever stop trying. Every person in every home in our community needs to know every human being is an equal, with a heart and feelings much like their own. And as such, every human in our community will be treated with dignity and respect no matter their race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, or origin of birth. We must accept that in all cases love will rule the day and hatred will not be tolerated. Since we are human, and given the history of the world, that message needs to be repeated over and over and over again.
~ Harvey Bravman, Publisher