Submitted by Beth MacGillivray
After reading Greenwich resident Al Shehadi’s Op-Ed in the Greenwich Free Press (SHEHADI: Sam Romeo Denies the Obvious When it Comes to Race In Greenwich, April 3, 2021) in which he accused Greenwich of being a racist community, I am compelled to respond.
As a resident of Greenwich for many years, I have always found it filled with an extremely diverse population. Diversity itself, is not defined simply in black or white terms, it also means a range or variety of different racial, ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds. In walking down Greenwich Avenue on any weekend, I have heard people speaking French, Russian, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and English with a British accent. Our Town is a virtual melting pot of diversity.
The US Census provides data that indicates how Greenwich has become more racially and ethnically diverse over the past forty years. In 1980, the minority school population in Greenwich was just 6%. In 1998, that number had grown to 19%, and the latest census shows that number has risen to 38%. There can be no argument about the level of diversity in Greenwich. This increase in our minority population is indicative of a community that is attractive to everyone, irrespective of their background.
Mr. Shehadi has unfairly singled out Sam Romeo, who has worked tirelessly to improve the quality and quantity of Greenwich’s affordable housing through his work with Greenwich Communities. Has he even seen the incredible town houses that Greenwich Communities has built at Armstrong Court, or the slated improvements for the Wilbur Peck apartments? Probably not. Instead of vilifying Sam Romeo, he should be thanking him for his contributions.
As for his complaints about The Old Burying Ground at Byram Shore Road, he was wrong again. Over a year ago, a group of neighbors took it upon themselves to transform this historic graveyard. Mr. Shehadi ignored the general landscape upkeep of the grounds, progress made in recognizing the lower slave/Native American cemetery, funding for the stone wall installation in the Town’s FY ‘21/22 budget and the welcomed exposure generated by the DAR’s Wreaths Across America event, a public ceremony supported by the descendants.
I take serious exception to Mr. Shehadi calling Greenwich “an open-air country club”. That is an insult to every hardworking, taxpaying resident of our town. He clearly has bought into the scurrilous narrative that Connecticut is ‘segregationist”, and that well run, attractive towns such as Greenwich are covertly racist. The current ethnic and racial makeup of our Town argues strongly against this false perspective
Unfortunately, some form of discrimination will probably always exist in the world. Fortunately, we Americans have made great strides toward limiting prejudice over the course of our history. As a nation we are not yet where strive to be, but I am very thankful we are not where we used to be either. I am proud of how Greenwich has become much more diverse over the past forty years. Our diversity is clearly an overt confirmation of the goodness and welcoming nature of this wonderful community we live in.
I am growing increasingly tired of being called a racist because I live in a town like Greenwich, instead of Bridgeport, New Haven or Hartford. I am fortunate to live here and I oppose trying to deny anyone else the same opportunity. I am not racist and neither is Greenwich!