Town of Swampscott, Dianna Ploss is a direct assault on our humanity

Ploss live streamed from today's US Capitol riot, “boots on the ground”

I offered the following public comments to our Board of Select. After everything that has happened today in DC, after everything we as a town have experienced at the machinations of a racist interloper and her followers since APRIL 2020—I have never felt more called to speak on the issues of racial injustice where I live.

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Good evening members of the Board of Select. My name is Keiko Zoll and I am a resident in precinct 6. I ask for your indulgence to allow me to read my comments in full.

Just before this meeting, I made a last minute grocery run. Before leaving, I texted a friend of mine who lives in this town, and they shared with me that they too needed to do a quick grocery run. However, because of the color of their skin, they felt it was unsafe to leave their home this evening, given the unlawful horror still unfolding on the steps of and within the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

We are neighbors. Not just this friend and I, but everyone listening to this meeting tonight. As neighbors, I believe we have an obligation to each other in this community, to look out for each other, to care for each other, to validate each other‘s birthright of humanity.

But we are more than just neighbors. And in this moment, I now respectfully and exclusively address the members of our select board. Yes, you are my neighbors. And you are also my elected officials. As public servants, you have an obligation to serve the community for which you represent—every member of our community, not just those who show up to select board meetings, not just those who cast a vote for you—every member of our community.

I know each of you know this, that you understand the scope of this obligation of service to our town, a commitment each of you made the moment you pulled your first nomination paper from Town Hall. I know you know this—but I, as a resident of this town—and we, as a community of constituents—need each of you to reaffirm that commitment by leading with integrity in this moment.

I offer this because at this moment, there are elected leaders who have failed our nation. They forgot that promise, that commitment they made to public service—and have in fact invited and incited acts of sedition in our nation’s capital, putting both lives and the fortitude of our country’s democracy in grave jeopardy.

What does this have to do with Swampscott?

When political agitators and provocateurs are given a carte blanche to cause civil unrest, the consequences can be catastrophic. When a person of color from outside our community—who came here to support the town in its effort to become a “more accepting, inclusive, and loving community” as this board of select so stated in November 11—when a person of color is wrongfully arrested and charged while a white member of our community who committed the same transgressions against others that same day retains her privilege of freedom—it sends a message.

When racist demagogues are permitted to incite civil unrest in our town uninterrupted for over 40 weeks, it sends a message.

When people of color are unjustly punished while white agitators are consistently permitted to provoke, it sends a message.

In the absence of a coordinated strategy to address, contain, and expel civil unrest—that is in direct opposition to the town’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—it sends a message: that this commitment is performative at best and that those who would seek to sow unrest in our town are welcome, from wherever they may hail.

To think that what’s happening at the Capitol can’t happen here is to be naïve. I know this because Dianna Ploss is at the Capitol right now. She has been emboldened to do so by rhetoric incited by our president. And she has made it clear she will not stop antagonizing our town—and she will bring with her all the racist hate, bigoted vitriol, and anti-democratic rhetoric she has wallowed in all day today on the National Mall. She will bring this with her every time she comes to this town.

And the implicit message that has been sent by town leadership to this point has been, “Come on down and bring your friends, because we’re not going to do anything about it!” — while simultaneously implying that people of color will be held to a different and unjust standard rooted in racist white supremacy.

The town has had 40 weeks to figure out a plan. And when you do—because you must—it is still not enough. We—your constituents, your neighbors—are owed repair for the racial trauma that has been inflicted upon us weekly, a primal wound left to fester unchecked these last 40 weeks.

It is not enough to simply hope that “she’ll just go away” — today’s acts of sedition at the Capitol bear that out to be false. And to believe that taking the path of least intervention is the best, that making a deliberate choice to, by and large, ignore what she brings to town—comes from a place of privilege grounded in your whiteness. Because for people of color—myself included, and for my friend, and my neighbors—we do not have the luxury to simply ignore racism and hope it will go away.

What Ploss stands for, what she bleats to her sheep, is a direct assault on MY humanity. It is an assault on ALL of our humanity. And by allowing this to continue, you enable and embolden such assaults on the humanity of every member of this town you were elected to represent and serve. For people of color in this town, every wasted opportunity to stop this has been death by a thousand cuts, slicing away at our humanity because that is what racism does—to all of us. To your neighbors.

And as your neighbor, I deserve better—we deserve better. And as your constituents, we are all owed urgent, swift, and resolute leadership in this moment.

Thank you for allowing my comments this evening.

Keiko Zoll is progressive working mom whose work is anchored at the intersection of constituent engagement, technology, and storytelling for racial and social justice, educational equity, and human rights. Follow her everywhere on social @keikozoll.


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