Letter to the editor: In support of Open Choice and diversity in Darien

Understanding why diversity matters

First of all, I want to applaud our forward-thinking Superintendent of Schools Alan Adley for understanding the pivotal importance of diversity in our educational system.

I have lived in Darien for 36 years. I am both an attorney (of 44 years standing) and a doctor. I raised two sons here and sent them through Tokeneke, Hindley, Middlesex and Darien High schools. I can attest to the fact that I watched Darien, along with other wealthy Fairfield County towns, drag its feet for decades resisting the implementation of legally mandated affordable housing. I have seen and heard a lot over the years. I have heard shopkeepers use the “n” word. My son, who is a small part Iroquois, was ridiculed for his native heritage. I heard of young children calling the Filipino mother of a little girl “Black” (it was not necessarily hurtfully intended but showed their ignorance). I have watched a middle school friend of my son who was Pakistani nastily labeled “Black” by some other children and insulted as a result of this so ruthlessly that his mother could not get him to go to school due to his severe depression from the experience. And much more.

Now we are locally poised on the edge of a rare opportunity to correct the collective racism that has infected both Darien and our entire American society since the time of slavery. It is high time to unmask and end the evil effects of enforced segregation and redlining.  

Darien is a town which was chartered — and then rechartered — for wealthy white people. Not so long ago, in the time I lived here, there was sundowning — stopping blacks and Hispanic people in disproportionate numbers — thereby effectively frightening and haranguing them. The first people who tried to institute affordable housing in Darien were peppered with delays, fees and other hostile behaviors, including the bringing of false legal charges against them. That is over now — I think — and that’s a good thing.

What has to end at this time is the absurdly disproportionate number of white people in this town. Our nation is roughly 20 percent Black. The fact that Darien — and almost all the other wealthy Fairfield County towns — are over 99 percent white says it all.

I have seen Black people refuse to move here because they did not want to see their children victimized by the collective racism of Darien. I have heard of people who refuse to come into our now extant affordable housing because they do not want their Black children to be labeled and persecuted. One Chinese woman told me that her child’s elementary school classmates told him: “You should thank Martin Luther King for allowing you to get this education.” Believe me, I have lots of proof like this — and also anti-Semitic comments.

And some people in Darien persist in the collective delusion that they are not racist, and become extremely offended by the response that “the proof is in the pudding.” Well, if you are not racist, don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Open the doors to our town to all peoples — varieties of Black, Asian and Caucasian. And that includes the Realtors of Darien.

When you stop to consider that more than half of all anthropologists do not believe in the concept of race, and that the entire human race is derived from a tribe of 6-800 people in Africa, it becomes ineluctably clear that all this fear, hatred and brutally unjust discrimination boils down to fighting over a few grams of melanin (skin coloration). It’s ridiculous.

Ask yourselves — what am I afraid of? Then choose love.

It is time now for the Board of Education to start hunting for the money for the Open Choice program. It’s there; we have it, and this is one place we should spend it. If you don’t care about the long heinously feral years of violent abuse of Black people, then perhaps you should care about the fact that an education in an effectively all-white town is a gross disservice to your children. They will be entering a multiracial population when it comes time for their employment and will have zero experience in dealing with this fact. The social ineptitude that will ensue will be disastrous for your kids. I had to send my children to nursery school in Norwalk to avoid this result — where they met people of all nationalities and races. It has served them very well in life. Open Choice is a rare opportunity for this town to get educated. Step into the 21st century. All we have to fear is fear itself.

Margaret A. Rague, Darien