N-word controversy was a teachable moment, but mob mentality led because leaders failed
Cambridge, like the nation and, I suspect, many communities across America, is living through turbulent and divisive political times. As many involved Cambridge residents are aware, recently a School Committee member decided to opt out of taking her seat in the next term. It was due to a very serious mistake and lapse in judgment followed by a sincere apology, which many Cambridge voters seem to have accepted. But local elected officials decided to use this mistake for, in my opinion, their own political ambition, and no one – no fellow committee members, no city councillors – showed leadership by standing up to a mob demanding vengeance and her head on a platter. Yet another opportunity was lost to lead and teach Cambridge students of the power of forgiveness, understanding and leadership. All municipal elected officials failed in their responsibilities to lead and use this event as a teaching moment for the young (and apparently the adults) of Cambridge.
One naive, ignorant teacher defended the committee member wearing a T-shirt with a bullseye on it during committee public comment, thus enraging and bringing out the mob once again. Cambridge Rindge and Latin School security had to escort the teacher off school property, in essence acting as a bodyguard. This is one more low point for the community.
This was not the first time a mob dictated Cambridge’s actions. A few years ago a young gay man whom I consider a friend ran for City Council. His political campaign was doomed by discovery of racist, hate-filled blog posts he had made as a young man living through a serious battle of conscience over his own sexuality. Again, the mob came out in force demanding blood. People I considered friends jumped on the bandwagon of hate demanding his blood. I hope he reads my words here and understands the power and responsibility to tell his story to young people battling through the same issues he did as a young man filled with anger and confusion. I believe it is a powerful, true story to tell that would benefit young people everywhere dealing with their own questions of sexuality.
There are other such incidents that should, but likely will not, bring shame to Cambridge. Bullying, along with a mob mentality, exists here in “woke” Cambridge. This is why I am no longer involved with Cambridge politics. I have found other ways to give a voice to those who believe they have none, and that no one in City Hall cares about them outside of election season.
All is not lost. Teachers, along with elected officials, can lead by example and teach students the difference between a mob mentality and a peaceful protest. They can show young people without the benefit of life experience the importance of that difference and the need for understanding and forgiveness, especially with whom you disagree. Disagreement, discussion and debate helps communities evolve.
During this holiday Season. I pray that the students involved with this incident learn about mercy, grace and forgiveness. I also hope they do not face a similar, unforgiving mob in their own lives. Finally, I pray a desperately needed leader steps up to bring Cambridge back to the leadership it was once famous for, so Cambridge can lead the nation through the dark political times ahead.
Emmanuel “Manny” Lusardi is an East Cambridge resident, longtime immigrant activist and former liaison for immigrant affairs to the Cambridge Mayor’s Office.