The father of one of the white boys accused of applying a strap around the neck of a Black boy at the Chilmark Community Center camp says racism wasn’t a factor in the incident.
The parent spoke with The Times on the condition of anonymity in order to protect the privacy of his 8-year-old son. His comments come after the Chilmark Community Affairs Council (CTAC) issued its report on the incident, which concluded there was no overt racism involved.
The parent said his son was asked not to return to the camp, which is run by the Chilmark Community Affairs Council, and believed that the same was true for the other accused child. He said his son “was not mindful of another camper’s feelings and safety,” and has been dealt with accordingly by his parents.
The idea that racism was behind the incident came “entirely” from adult minds, that it represented “moral cowardice disguised as moral fervor,” and that it was untrue, the parent said. “This is a witch hunt. It should embarrass everybody who participated in it. Nobody in camp saw any evidence of the kind of motivation that’s been attributed to my family and my child.”
The parent didn’t see merit in blaming camp counselors for what happened. “I am not going to lay this at the feet of 17-year-old counselors,” the parent said. “Kids misbehave at every camp — sometimes. What made this incident one of public attention and vilification had nothing to do with those 17-year-old counselors. It had nothing to do with the camp staff being insufficiently attentive. What it had to do with was a witch hunt and a campaign of bullying by adults who saw absolutely fictitious racial motivation.”
The parent was critical of the CTAC, of the select board, and of townspeople: “These are people who, seeing a witch hunt in their town, felt that they needed to be at the head of it. I don’t know whether that is because they are so excited at the opportunity to spread falsehood, or if they are fearful that they themselves are going to be accused of racism if they don’t jump to the head of this witch hunt.”
The father took issue with the involvement of the police. “I am appalled that relatives of the child would have gone to the police,” he said, “apparently seeking a prosecution of 8- and 9-year-olds over an incident like this.”
Despite accusations his son exhibited bullying, he said, his son and family had become the subject of bullying. “Some of the people involved in this seem to think that we will be so shamed and so frightened by the specter of further accusation and innuendo that we will keep our mouths shut and we will simply let it continue with no response,” the parent said. “That is how cowards and bullies think … And that is not how we think in my family.”
The Times has been unable to reach a parent of the other child accused in the incident.
The Chilmark select board is scheduled to meet about the camp’s report at 4:30 pm Wednesday. The report is the only item on the agenda.