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Editorial: Boynton Beach, roiled by racial rift, has repair work to do

To the relief of many, a Boynton Beach resident labeled a “racist” and “white supremacist” has resigned from the advisory board of the Community Redevelopment Agency – the very agency that works to improve the city’s struggling neighborhoods inhabited mainly by people of color.

Cindy Falco-DiCorrado insisted that she has been misunderstood, and — to her credit — said conciliatory things in a Sunday night resignation email: “For the record I am NOT a racist or a white supremacist (I had to look up what that meant) …. We are one Race and that is the Human Race. (sic)”

But the episode shouldn’t be allowed to end here. Events over the last two weeks have revealed a dismaying degree of racial animus that evidently simmers just below the city’s surface. That knowledge can’t now be reburied. It must be dealt with — as a community.

It all started at a Dec. 5 meeting of the Boynton City Commission, when first-year commissioner Christina Romelus suggested Boynton become a sanctuary city. The city’s leaders decided against it. But for simply suggesting the idea, Romelus was subjected to demands from some residents that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.

Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots who demanded her ouster.

“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told the Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”

She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”

Falco-DiCorrado, in the audience, was among those who opposed Romelus’ pursuit. According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents, “You’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”

Lucky? Those residents were lucky to hear themselves addressed with contempt?

Falco-DiCorrado later said that she was misinterpreted, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”

She also complained that after her remarks were circulated, she, herself, became a victim of a “lynch mob” that harassed her with emails.

Boynton’s vice mayor, Justin Katz, joined those who demanded that Falco-DiCorrado resign from the CRA advisory board.

“While you and every other American have a right to hold certain views, no matter how offensive; you do not have a right to serve on a city advisory board and espouse patently racist and prejudicial comments to other residents at meetings,” Katz said. “Your comments are not representative of the city of Boynton Beach and only serve to injure our great city and its budding reputation as a growing and inclusive community.”

Katz’s response was spot-on. And so was Romelus’, when saying she had no intention of resigning. That’s good. As the lone Haitian-American on the commission — and the lone woman — she offers a point of view that needs to be heard.

And our democracy would suffer serious injury if public officials start getting pushed out of office for merely voicing their opinions, however unpopular some portions of the community find them.

Romelus is utterly correct that the unexpectedly angry push-back she encountered is “testament to the day and age in which we live.” In the Donald Trump era, racist and anti-immigrant views are being given freer voice. And as talk is often the prelude to action, even hate crimes are on the rise nationally, 58 percent of them motivated by racial bias, the FBI reported last month.

The Boynton Beach City Commission has a job before it. The anger and animosities revealed over the last couple of weeks must not be treated as an isolated incident. This type of divisive incivility demands heightened efforts to bring people from diverse communities together.

Because this is tantamount to a slap in the face that all is not well in Boynton.

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