To the Editor:
The recent Lake Sumter “white power” political confrontation exposed two issues in The Villages — the racial divisions and political divisions. As African-American residents of The Villages who moved here two years ago, we are writing to express dismay and disillusionment after viewing the video tweeted by President Trump.
The video shows white Democrat and white Republican residents loudly confronting each other with foul language, including racist shouts of “white power.” Friends living across the United States, and overseas, have sent messages of concern, asking if our personal safety is threatened by living in such a racially and politically charged community. If people believe this is a racist community, then all residents and businesses are painted with the same brush.
Continued silence by, the Morse family, the owners of The Villages, makes it appear that this type of confrontation with racial epithets is condoned in The Villages. Through their silence, the Morses are losing the opportunity to denounce the use of racism as a political tool by Villages residents. It is imperative that the Morses speak out to restore The Villages’ reputation.
We have received messages and phone calls from friends far and wide who were planning to visit The Villages to purchase a home for retirement, but now say they see a different picture, and have permanently cancelled plans to come. In their minds, the once famous slogan used by the Villages, “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown,” is false and should instead be, “Florida’s Most Racist Hometown.” As the political season heats up over the next months, there will be more political activities in the Villages, and potentially more heated clashes with racist tones and a possible threat of violence. Some current Villages residents report that they fear placing a Democratic sticker on their car because the car may be vandalized.
The image of The Villages as a racist and politically volatile community diminishes the value of the existing homes and lowers the expectations for future home sales. We implore the Morse family to immediately act to denounce the use of racism and threats as political tools before future activities get completely out of hand.
Our suggestions include, but are not limited to:
• Publicly denounce the activities that occurred in Lake Sumter around the “white power” incident tweeted by President Trump.
• Establish that the culture of The Villages is all inclusive by launching an initiative to demonstrate a continuing commitment to racial and political diversity through a concerted campaign to recruit more minority residents, minority owned businesses, and minority employees.
• Formalize ways to provide a safe and civil environment, while recognizing the first amendment right to “free speech.”
• Establish a position for a “Chief Diversity Officer” along with a diversity task force. The task force would consist of a group of individuals that are passionate about creating a more diverse, civil, and inclusive community.
The Morses might follow in the footsteps of one of the largest real estate companies, Greystar, whose managing director espouses “making diversity a business imperative.”
It has been said that “all publicity is good publicity”, and we strongly urge the Morse family to capitalize on this as an opportunity to publish plans to ensure a fair, open, and diverse community of residents, employees, political parties, and businesses in The Villages, and that they demonstrate a clear and continuing commitment to maintain a diverse community.
Additionally, we ask that they explicitly state what actions will be taken to reign in the types of behavior seen in the video.
Clay and Aleta Wilson
Village of Hacienda South