As Williamstown, Massachusetts voters head to the polls Tuesday, select board candidate Albert Cummings says the town’s character is being maligned in local debate. The election comes amid tense conversations about systemic discrimination following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and a series of scandals including alleged racist behavior within the Williamstown Police Department. Cummings, a contractor and musician, says he’s a rationally-minded local running to defend Williamstown against what he describes as a destructive debate. Cummings spoke with WAMC in the last part of our four-story series on the select board candidates.
CUMMINGS: I think a few things have happened in town that none of us are happy with, you know. I made a statement early on before, I think when this first started, that I've never seen it, you know, I've never seen racism personally. And I, you know, I still- I can say that, in Williamstown, I can say that I have not seen it personally. But that doesn't mean for a second that it's not happening. And when I hear of people feeling uncomfortable, or feeling anything that isn't pleasant, I want to jump in and I want to help and I want to help deliver this message. I just think there's different ways to do things that might not be so- I don't know, I think it's just I think there's some actions happening right now that are just shocking, shocking to a lot of people. And I think it's creating more of a divide in the town versus helping it. So I'm hoping I can bring people together and kind of work and help this message get out there. Because I don't want my town to have any of that in it. You know, I'm not even sure if that's what you're talking about. Because there's a lot of issues going on in town, right?
WAMC: No, for sure.
Lot of things going on, you know?
No, you're right. There's a lot going on. It sort of seems like this particular aspect of it has been one that, certainly, looking over communications with folks online, it seems like this is, this particular issue seems to be one that that keeps coming up with your candidacy, as far as confronting this narrative. You know, I guess some people would say, you know, hearing a middle aged white guy say I haven't experienced racism, you know, some people will say, well, maybe you're not the person who would experience or see racism in the community.
That's fair. That's a fair statement. You know, I understand that. Yeah, I'm a 53-year-old male. And I've experienced it outside of Williamstown. I mean, I'm a touring musician. I've seen it. I've seen it firsthand. I've seen its ugly face. I've looked right at it. And, but I haven't witnessed that myself in Williamstown. And I wasn't taught that growing up. I wasn't, I don't, I never would participate. And I wouldn't tolerate any of my friends or anybody that I know in it, you know? So I'm, you know, I don't know how to say it. I mean, when I made that statement that I've never seen it, that's something I still can say I haven't seen it firsthand. But I guess, you know, if I'm reading about it, and I'm seeing it in papers, or I'm seeing pictures, or whatever I'm seeing, then I can say I have seen it, you know what I mean, now. So I think there's a lot of good that's happening. I think everybody can agree that before anybody can heal, you know, you don't, you can't fix a problem until you recognize you have it. And I want to recognize that I don't like some of this stuff at all. I mean, meaning what's been brought to light, you know, and then the DIRE committee’s been really good with bringing things to light like that, you know what I mean? So it's like, let's bring it out. Let's get it out. Let's cut the cancer out. Let's fix it. And let's make our community better. That's my whole goal. And that's what I want to help do, so.
So turning to some of those issues, like, looking certainly at this sort of series of incidents involving the police department, what would you do on the select board to address this ongoing process of coming to terms with what's been revealed about the police department over the past year?
Well, you know, I'm not sure what's been done as far as reprimanding anybody that's done certain things, or whatever. I'm not privy to all that information and what's been already done. But I think something has been done and I think a large lesson has been learned. And I think this, I think the best thing that's happened is there's a line drawn in the sand that if something was seen as a humorous thing before, that's not tolerated anymore, you know. That's, that's something that's- there’s some things happened there that I'm not proud of, and I think anybody that works at the police department is not proud of. But I mean, I'm a guy that looks more at the positives of everything more than I do the negatives. I recognize the negatives, but I'm not going to go board up my police department because a few little things happened. And no matter, you know, I don't mean to say they're little and they're insignificant. I just mean, there's a few things. I mean, I'm looking at a police department that I've known all my life and known generations of different officers that have come through there. And I'm proud of my police department. I mean, they've done some things that I'm not proud of, but I think we can work through this, and I think we can help the public back into trusting the police department. I mean, you know, when they start trying to bring in the national, this, I mean, sorry, you know, people I know, your listeners might not agree, but I don't believe in defunding the police like they're saying, you know. I think I think we got to help our police. I mean, Williamstown would not be Williamstown without our police department.