By Beth David, Editor
Nomination papers are now available for all positions in the April 2024 election in Fairhaven.
Select Board Chairperson Leon Correy III has publicly announced that he will not run for reelection because he and his family have had to endure countless racist comments while he has been in office.
In a Facebook post on 10/28, Mr. Correy said he did not call out many acts that were racist as he ran for office or served in office, even when others did.
“There is a man and a family on the other side of the words, threats and insults you so cowardly cast from behind your screen,” wrote Mr. Correy. “As you punch away at your keys with passion and anger because ‘how dare you try to come in and change our town,’ there are people at the other end of those words.”
He said the town embraced him until he became a “visible figure.”
“The truth is that the town of Fairhaven isn’t ready for a person of color to be a visible leader in the town,” he wrote.
He also wrote about racist comments aimed at Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison.
In a phone interview this week, Mr. Correy said nothing has changed since he made the post on 10/28.
He said some people have reached out and said they understand and respect the decision. Others have expressed “a degree of remorse.”
“That’s been great,” he said, but added that the reality is it has gone too far.
“The town has a lot of growing to do, but first it has to recognize that it needs to,” said Mr. Correy.
He said he was not sure it was worth taking time away from his family, “and then to go through what we’ve gone through.”
“By me saying Fairhaven has an issue with racism is not me saying everyone is a racist,” said Mr. Correy. “And that’s how people are taking it.”
It’s just a lack of experience, he said. The town has had women and LGBTQ people in leadership roles, but never leaders of color.
“So it’s a crash course.”
He also said people have accused him of making it up or having a thin skin.
“Being called a n——r in the parking lot is not making it up,” said Mr. Correy.
“It’s a sad place to be,” he said. “I really like Fairhaven. The people of Fairhaven have been great to me.”
He added that he has been happy with the things he has been doing, but feels he was not given a chance.
He said no one knew his brother had played in the NFL until he asked him to speak to the Fairhaven High School football team before they went to the Super Bowl last week.
He said it was not something he talked about, but not something he kept secret either.
“Nobody even bothered to get to know me. It would have come up in a conversation of some sort,” said Mr. Correy. “I’m actually an interesting person who has lived an interesting life if anyone had bothered to get to know me.”
He said he did not mention any names in his post because he did not want it to be about the people who said things.
In his post he said he could pack his bags and move, something he has not decided yet.
“It is certainly something we’re thinking about,” he said. “It’s not out of the question.”
There are, of course, other factors involved, including that he has two children.
“The genie is out of the bottle,” said Mr. Correy. “Can we actually live a quiet life in town at this point?”
Ms. Ellison said that she, too, has experienced a lot of “simple micro-aggressions,” comments that let her know it’s code for her being a person of color. One person joked that they were going to an event she would be at and they would get their KKK cap. Her judgment is questioned: when she hires someone, will she hire a person of color? When she walks into the room and they tell her they are waiting for the TA, and she has to tell them she is the TA.
“They’re expecting someone not looking like me to be the Town Administrator,” she said.
Ms. Ellison said she also gets the “double whammy” of gender in addition to race.
She said people need to be an ally and understand what that means, or tell people where you’re coming from.
“You can’t claim not to see color when you do,” said Ms. Ellison. “And part of my identify is being a person of color.”
Ms. Ellison has suggested that people read “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo.
“Read the book if you want to know how to be an ally.”
Visit www.neighbnews.com for Mr. Correy’s full post from 10/28/23.
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