Editorial: We need to advocate Black Lives Matter and always strive for better (Updated)

I’m breaking from blog tradition. I generally stick to covering what’s happening in our town. I’ve never written an editorial. And I avoid writing about my own “political” views.*

Last night, I attended the Rally for Peace and Racial Justice in Southborough. (I’ll be writing more about that later.) I thank speakers there for waking me up. They helped me realize that it’s not enough to “not be racist”.

In Southborough, we have been insulated from many of the issues rocking the nation by living in a mostly white, fairly affluent town. There have been no publicly reported acts of racial injustice by our police department. That doesn’t mean we should put blinders on to what’s happening in our country.

From my place of white privilege* (and other privileges), I have a responsibility to be publicly anti-racist.

It’s not enough to debate issues with family members and educate my children about racial injustice. It’s not right to hide my opinions about politics behind a veil of privacy when people in this country suffer and even die as a result of institutionalized racism. I have platforms, so I have a responsibility to use them.

The problem of racial injustice in this country is too big to ignore.

It’s not enough to lament about “bad apples”. There is a systemic problem in America. There needs to be real, legislated, institutional change.

Two weeks ago, I shared information on how to advocate for justice by writing to legislators. You can find that information here.

I’m not sure what all of the right answers are for changes needed. But organizers of Campaign Zero have ideas worth serious consideration. I welcome commenters to share other resources they think are valuable. (I won’t welcome any racist retorts.)**

We need to embrace the mantra Black Lives Matter.

When people argue back that All Lives Matter, we need to educate them. Stop inferring it means “only”. The movement is meant to fight pervasive racism that demeans black lives as insignificant. (As some have put it, all lives don’t matter until black lives do.)

When someone exhorts that they want to make America great again, I’d ask – When was America ever “great” for people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations? Stop looking back nostalgically to a time when those in your bubble were better off.

If you believe that systemic racism is a “fake” concept, I’d ask you to check how valid your “news” sources are.

There is no perfect society. But we should always be striving to be better.

Beth Melo

*For readers who object to “white privilege”: It doesn’t mean that all white people have an easy lot in life. There are many kinds of privilege. In American society, whatever your financial and educational status, having white skin gives you an additional advantage (or protection) vs those of other races in similar circumstances.

**I have been reevaluating my comment policy. One of several issues I’m grappling with is prejudice in comments. I have refused to post some racist comments in the past. But I had also allowed some I deemed at least somewhat racist. That was based on the principal that if you don’t allow evidence of racism in our community to peek through, it’s easy for people to believe/claim that it doesn’t exist in our town.
But I have also come to believe that if you allow people a forum for these ideas, it just encourages others who feel a kinship.

Updated (6/15/2020 1:17 pm): A commenter rightly called me on a statement in my original version. What I meant to write was something to the effect of: “We have been fortunate to have been insulated from many of the issues rocking the nation by living in a mostly white, fairly affluent town”.  But in my editing an originally overlong letter (with too much about me) I accidentally ended up with the statement  “In Southborough, we are fortunate enough to live in a mostly white, fairly affluent town.”  I deeply apologize for mistakenly phrasing it that way. That’s beyond unfortunate. It’s insensitive and it isn’t how I feel.

I believe that having a diversity of population helps expand our view of the world. I’m happy about the increase in diversity Southborough has seen over the years, and welcome much more.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alan Wynn
3 years ago

Good job, well written and well said!

3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Wynn

Agreed on being fortunate to live in Southborough.

Agreed on being fortunate to live in a fairly affluent town.

Do not agree on being fortunate to live in a mostly white community.

My most respectful interpretation is that you did not intend for the reader to interpret it in this way, particularly in the context of this post. But, words matter…

I am fortunate to live in a community that has a non-white component and I love that we have that. We are all better for it.

Kelly Roney
3 years ago

Thank you, Beth. I was there, too.

8:46 is a long, long time.

Anne Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Thanks so much, Beth, for keeping us informed and for taking a stand on this issue. The vigil last night was a beautiful, profound experience. Let’s hold its ideas in our minds and in our hearts.

Frank Crowell
3 years ago

When a community is denied an opportunity to improve their kids education by way of state wide referendum, is that institutional racism? What I am referring to is the vote we had more than five years ago denying additional charter schools. Are the failing school districts from five years ago any better off today? No. Are these mostly minority communities? Yes.

Maybe the way to get a better understanding is for our high school students to be exposed to these not so fortunate communities: tutoring? Having the kids step away from their “white privilege” might open up new solutions. Solutions of the past 50 plus years would have to be deemed a failure.

Dick Chase
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

I completely agree with your idea that solutions of the past 50 years (I’d say 155 years – we may finally be seeing an end to the civil war) have been a failure, and figuring some way to have our high school students (and all of our community for that matter) to step away from their white privilege to learn and help others is one positive path to a better future. I have no idea how to make that real, but would like nothing better than to join with others to make that happen. Count me in!

That said, yeah, Charter schools are the epitome of institutional racism. Take public monies from the educational system to educate a more privileged subset of the population, leaving the rest for the police to deal with. There is a huge amount we can do to improve public education. Let’s take the money that we’ve been spending in increasing amounts for over a century on militarizing law enforcement that has resulted in mostly negative outcomes trying to resolve issues after they have gone sour for individuals and whole communities. Use those resources to fund education, outreach, and social services in order to prevent situations that a police force is needed for in the first place. It’s just basic economic sense.

As for the Charter school referendum a few years ago… I’m not sure if you meant to, but the comment seems to express a fundamental distrust of your fellow citizens, democracy, human rights, and the concept of government of the people, by the people, for the people. The people of the Commonwealth understood the charter school issue for what it was five years ago and made their will clear in a statewide referendum. Do you really have a problem with that beyond the fact that the people’s will does not match yours?

Frank Crowell
3 years ago
Reply to  Dick Chase

“…. Charter schools are the epitome of institutional racism. Take public monies from the educational system to educate a more privileged subset of the population, leaving the rest for the police to deal with.” 

I would not tell that to the 100,000 African American moms in FL who voted for a pro-charter school gubernatorial candidate.

 By the way, his opponent was African American.


Plenty of other evidence that charter schools help minority inner city families.


“As for the Charter school referendum a few years ago… I’m not sure if you meant to, but the comment seems to express a fundamental distrust of your fellow citizens,….”

Yes, I meant that. The public put its trust in the teacher’s union who was overwhelmingly against expansion of charter schools. Has anyone wondered if things have changed for the better in Southbridge? If the majority cared, they would have allowed for more charter schools because the status quo has failed. One might even say it has failed in Southborough – the problems have just been plastered over with money. But so long as property values remain high who cares.


Longtime Observer
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Those who advocate the privatization of public education have long invoked children of color as a sympathetic plea for support. In reality, two things are true,

In this area, AMSA does NOT serve historically disadvantaged children, or, frankly, many kids who utilize standard services of traditional public schools… like, say… special ed or mental health services. A dirty little secret is that AMSA kids are quietly and routinely encouraged to leave AMSA when AMSA determines in cannot or will not provide services that traditional public schools are compelled to provide. The school only serves a very small set of niche high-achieving in STEM students who fit the desirable student profile that AMSA has chosen to serve. That they are then compared – in MCAS scores and the like – to traditional public schools – is a farce.

As for the other charters… the good ones require extensive parental advocacy to get admitted and attend. Which is great, except that parental involvement is one of the strongest predictors of student success, so such students already have a leg up and likely would do well in traditional public schools anyway.

Basically, charters are filled with self-selecting high achievers and get public money and are saddled with few of the impossible mandates that traditional public schools must meet. This is why their success rates are higher. They serve as a brain drain, as a resource drain, and as apples to oranges.

Also, this post is about the many legitimate aspects of systemic racism in this country. Bringing up the charter school topic amounts to dog whistling.

Michael Taylor
3 years ago

Agreed. Discussing charter schools Is a non-sequitur.

Kate Noke
3 years ago

I can only speak to my own experience with charters. I have three children (all out of college now) who had different middle school experiences. My daughter had a learning disability and unfortunately her needs were not being met at Trottier, so she moved to McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham. She needed an experiential hands-on learning environment, and that’s what she received there (and what was not offered at Trottier). My son attended AMSA after we discovered that he and some peers were simply being given work to do by themselves in their fast-paced math class, while the teacher worked with the other students. This led to acting out, which wasn’t appreciated, obviously. My youngest attended Trottier and had a great school experience. I want to stress that I was very involved in the district. Back in the day, I volunteered as a room parent, chaperone, soccer coach, girl scout leader, and for years I also served on the board of the special education parent advisory council, working to improve outcomes for children with disabilities. I would have been delighted if all of my kids could have received an appropriate education in the same district, because it would have been a heck of a lot easier for me, as the driver. McAuliffe, in particular, was a gloriously diverse learning community, and my daughter thrived there. With regard to AMSA, I’m not sure what you are implying. From their website – “AMSA’s teaching philosophy involves starting challenging abstract learning, typically expected for high school students, early in the middle school grades.” If a student applies to AMSA, it’s pretty clear what is expected. My youngest tried it for a month, and decided that it was not the place for him, and he was no slouch, academically. Charters do take students with disabilities, and those students can do really well, if the environment is appropriate. Parents, like students, have to do their homework. Yes, I was an involved parent. Yes, I realize I was fortunate to be able to be involved. And I was involved in every school my children attended, both traditional public, and public charter.

Frank Crowell
3 years ago

Leave it to Thomas Sowell to get this right. Full column in todays WSJ – this is only partial.


I’ll take his facts over any teacher’s union argument. Following their lead will doom another generation of African Americans and all underprivileged families who live in failed school districts. It will not be a panacea for the inner city problems but it is a start.

Longtime Observer
3 years ago

Are you equating African Americans with inner cities and suggesting that more charter schools in the cities is the solution? That sounds like continued de facto segregation.

How about fuller integration and life-affirming respect in all parts of America instead? Like, say, here in Southborough?

Frank Crowell
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Well let’s see Long Time Observer……..

First you accuse me of promoting institutional racism via charter schools. Then when I show proof of the opposite from an African American who use to live in the New York City, you accuse me of being a segregationist. Well, I am not segregationist just a engineer looking for solutions not continue with failed programs and ideas.

Yun Gao
3 years ago

Hi. Beth: Well said, totally agree. Thanks for writing and maintaining the website.
All the best to you and your family during Covid-19. Yun

3 years ago

Well done.

Michael Taylor
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I applaud you for taking a stand on this issue.

Dick Snyder
3 years ago

Very well written Beth. I had a similar epiphany after the Franklin Park rally almost two weeks ago. One protestor carried a sign saying “White Silence is White Consent”. That made the scales fall from my eyes. I sent my own own letter to the editor of the Metrowest News two days later.

Christine Narcisse
3 years ago

Thank you Beth. Amen.

3 years ago

Thank you for your eloquent and honest words. As someone who is just beginning the journey of anti-racism as well, I highly recommend the book “How to Be an Antiracist”, by Ibram X. Kendi, to those who have not read it.

3 years ago

I sincerely appreciate your sentiments here and am proud that Southborough held this event. I hope there are more like it to come.

Craig Nicholson
3 years ago

I appreciate the elevation of this issue. It’s long overdue, and it gives me hope that maybe this time will be different.

One of the key byproducts of the centuries of racism that our country is founded upon is the lack of wealth families of color have been able accumulate, due to segregation and exclusionary real estate practices (red lining for bank loans, clauses in deeds that forbade the sale of property to Blacks, etc). As a result, the net worth of the median Black family in Greater Boston is $8. (https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Wealth-Inequalites-in-Greater-Boston.pdf) Meanwhile, the average price of a single family home in Southborough is $660K, making it virtually impossible for people of color to live here.

If this community really wants to start addressing systemic racism and make Southborough a more equitable community, then we must take immediate steps to allow multi-family affordable housing.

Without concrete changes in our town code- which currently does not allow multi-family housing without a lengthy, costly and contentious process- then I have trouble viewing these sentiments as anything other than lofty lip service. Let’s take this opportunity to truly make our town anti-racist, and welcoming to all.

3 years ago

Thank you for this.

Honest question (and not specific to this one comment) – How comfortable are we as a community hearing about situations in which people have been offended for reasons they believe are due to their appearance?

And if we hear about those times will we be grateful?

Or will we dismiss what was shared?

They may be us, but we are not them. And what we bring to the party can not help but get in the way of that conversation unless we truly are open to the feedback and are willing to listen. I hope we can do better trying to understand what others are experiencing right here in Southborough. I struggle with this.

3 years ago

To Mr. Nicholson,
While you make some good points, you fail to recognize that many of the existing residents of all races struggle to live here on affordability and taxes, including seniors. Having a coherent zoning code with ZBA members who actually do the job of asking questions, and enforcing good zoning laws is not systemic racism. It is wrong to equate the two. Could not disagree more with your conclusory statement of “let’s take this opportunity to make our town “anti-racist.” What hocus pocus. Not buying into a pro-developer stance does not make this town or any other town racist. This is insulting, dangerously irresponsible, and outright ridiculous. Just because some parties try to cram dangerous density zoning unwittingly down the voters throats doesn’t mean those parties will succeed or, incredibly, will achieve a buy into the “racism” argument pushed by pro-developer greed.

You, as someone who actually sits on the ZBA and got appointed even with your statement of not ever actually attending a ZBA meeting (file under “go figure”), you will appreciate the following. One of the latest proposed developments was switched last minute from “affordable” to full market rate by the developer with the assistance of the ZBA.

Isn’t it ironic how the controversial Park Central project benefits from two attorneys in court? With town counsel seated next to developers attorney in the courtroom. Paid for by your tax dollars. Both attorneys currently crybaby and whine about how much the town needs affordable housing, and this developer is bringing much needed 40b housing to the town. These parties are motived by profit not “affordable,” as evidenced by the Oregon Road / Stonebrook switch.

Again, this is the same developer and attorney who tanked their 40b affordable housing on Oregon Road / Stonebrook in recent years, switching it from “much needed” 40b affordable housing to full market rate housing, approved by the then ZBA (led by Attorney Tom Bhisitkul, now on Advisory) late one night after most of the public had gone home. See the Minutes and YouTube video. Tom Bhisitkul (who later recuses himself from the controversial Park Central project, filing a conflict of interest form) asks developers counsel if anyone appealed the Oregon Road 40b. Attorney Catanzaro (see the Mass Board of Overseers website for his public admonishment by the BBO under his name; this is who Town Counsel joins in court on your taxpayer dollars on Park Central) says no and the ZBA approves the controversial switch as “no substantial change.” This is after getting approvals for favorable conditions and setbacks that applied to the 40b affordable housing.

Why was there no appeal? Because the town residents thought they were getting affordable housing as promised by the town and the developer. The citizens were in favor of affordable housing in that location. Fast forward: Now the crybabies are at it again right now, and have forgotten to mention they had the opportunity to provide the town with affordable housing just a few years ago on Oregon Road and actually chose to not do so, going full market rate. All with the help of the Town, the then ZBA. File under ironic “Switch-a-roo.” Now the new community housing plan language has the gall to include the questionable language called out as objectionable by Planning Board members? Who drafted that poor and misleading conclusory language? What is the legal purpose of that deceptive language? It leads one to a false conclusion as rightly called out by Planning Board and needs to be changed to protect the town against the double entendre and two faced, self serving, fee-based, profit-driven interests. What gall to claim “Anti-developer sentiment?” Go check out the ZBA minutes (if you can find them please have them publicly posted) and tapes of your own Board. Simply unbelievable.

3 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

1. Quite right. Even more ironically, Tom Bhisitkul is on SHOPC, the committee charged with the facilitation of affordable housing.

2. Tom Bhisitkul chaired the ZBA when the Oregon Road / Stonebrook proposed 40B was switched to full market rate development. You have to see the tape.

3. Your statement above, “you can argue that 55+ isn’t an improvement, but . . .it was changed to that category . . .” Please don’t recast my opinions. With all due respect, you miss my point entirely. The Oregon Road project was supposed to be a 40B affordable housing project. Period. That is what the developer and the town promised. The developer pulled a “switch-a-roo” because of the greater profit by going with full market rate. Money. More profitable than affordable housing. Period. The ZBA facilitated the switch to full market rate, and not proceeding with affordable.

The ultimate irony is that this is the same developer and his crybaby attorneys (seated next to town counsel) using the same crybaby antics in court right now on the controversial Park Central proposed project. They are whining about affordable housing need, while these are all the same persons responsible for tanking their own affordable project on Oregon Road and going full market (unaffordable) housing. What hypocrites.

That change was brought forward late at night; the tape speaks for itself, and the ZBA helped.

More importantly, affordable / 40B is often used by developers as a wedge to develop their real goal: other higher profit development.

Fully agree with Average Joe: “I have no issue with the housing code in Southborough, its the reason why I live here. I prefer not to have a Park Central. Has absolutely NOTHING to do with race.” For Mr. Nicholson to equate zoning with race is simply a dangerous and ignorant argument.

As always, this town needs more qualified persons on the ZBA. Mr. Nicholson never attended a ZBA meeting and was appointed by the BOS with Mr. Rooney leading the charge, who BTW never asked Mr. Nicholson if he had any conflicts of interest or any financial ties to persons who come regularly before the Boards, basic due diligence questions for appointees. Mr. Nicholson hails from the development community. File again under: Go Figure.

3 years ago

Thank you for saying this. I have noticed that Southborough has increasingly become more colorful and I like it. We are becoming more diverse, I have watched it. Just this evening two beautifully brown kids walked by and a few moments later two older women walked by in the opposite direction speaking another language. This is wonderful and beautiful to me and it makes me smile to know that Southborough is growing in a colorful way.
To your point about wealth, I have also noticed that a 10 room house on Main St that was recently purchased and renovated by St. Mark’s now has 4 electrical meters. Does this mean that the house has been divided up into 4 units? Could a resident do that? Are we pandering to wealth here?
I believe that Southborough truly does want to be a town known for striving to be anti-racism (I
say “striving” because practicing anti-racism is an ongoing, lifelong commitment.) We need to look deep and root it out in ways we might not have consider in the past.

3 years ago

Craig –

Put your money where your mouth is. Maybe you should donate your house to 4 families that can’t afford to live here.

I have no issue with the housing code in Southborough, its the reason why I live here. I prefer not to have a Park Central. Has absolutely NOTHING to do with race

While you are at it, I could not afford to live in a Brown Stone on Beacon Hill. Can you please make that happen for me?

No, I am not a racist, so please don’t try and say I am. I am just an average Joe that has worked my tail off to live in this town.

Tim Martel
3 years ago

Craig, you should realize that a real estate developer advocating for zoning bylaw changes that are more permissive of high density housing is going to be met with skepticism…

Jessica Devine
3 years ago

Thank you for speaking up, Beth.

3 years ago

Careful of misleading wording! Southborough already has many “families of color” living here. Look around!

The term “net worth” is defined as: total worth (the money you have) + the money you own but technically don’t have (stocks, property, etc.). The article you cite above lists “total wealth”, which is defined as the money you have in cash or crypto-currency. Your mixing of the two misleads the reader. The table in the article lists median total wealth for a US-born Black living in Boston as $8. This includes all Black people living in Boston – wealthy, poor, unemployed, etc.

You also mix median and average. Let’s review. Median is defined as the middle value in a list of values. It would seem to be entirely dependent on the list of values. Average is defined as the arithmetic mean – the sum of the values divided by the number of those values (being averaged). Median and average are not the same.

Next, you cite $660K as the average price of a home in Southborough. If the point is about affordability, most White people cannot afford to live in Southborough either! If we look, again, at your Boston table, we see a high total wealth value for White people living in Boston. What does that tell us? A White person needs to be wealthy to live in Boston.

Based on your proposals, Southborough “needs” to build lots of low-cost multi-family dwellings so that economically disadvantaged people, in particular “people of color”, will be able to live here. Won’t White people then file discrimination lawsuits?

Is this some sort of knee-jerk reaction?

3 years ago

Reading with interest all of these comments. I grew up in a city, went to school in city-classrooms with 50/50%ratio of black/white students. I moved here later in life. It was hard to adjust to life in Southborough, I’ll admit. I’ve met some racist parents in town, but mostly those who are racist against people who make less money than they do. Some of these very people have “Black Lives Matter” or “Hate has No Home Here” signs on their yards (you know who you are). I miss living in a city with different types of people. I did not choose to live in Southborough, my spouse had inherited the home from family and had been raised in town. I pose this question to all….why do people choose to buy a home in a town where they KNOW fully well that it has less than 1% of black residents and then pretend they have a problem with that. If you had enough money to buy a house in Southborough, then you certainly had enough resources to research the town. Don’t pretend that the demographics of the town weren’t part of the reason you moved here. You could have moved to Marlborough or Framingham and gotten more for your money. That is a personal choice. Don’t pretend that you didn’t know what the diversity situation was when you put the down payment on your fancy home in your “lilly white” town. You are fooling no one but yourself.

3 years ago
Reply to  INTERESTING...

As an Irish American, I resent your term “lilly white.” Please rethink the use of this terminology.

3 years ago

While I appreciate some of your sentiments, I’m not sure racist is an appropriate term for wealth snobbishness.

3 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

My above comment was meant as a reply to INTERESTING…

3 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Classism is the term you are looking for.

The silent racism that the Joyner twins shine a light on sometimes is a result of these other biases presenting as racism.

I think it’s good to emphasize this distinction since classism, sexism and racism require different modes of sensitivity training.

3 years ago
Reply to  Fred

Good points.

  • © 2024 MySouthborough.com — All rights reserved.