Text of Maurice Possley’s Statement to Local Reporters Re: Racist Incident at Our Home

The following was the statement written and read by my husband, Maurice Possley, about the events of 12/27/2016 to two local newspaper reporters in Laguna Beach, Calif., the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 in the office of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, where our family worships: 

“On December 27, two days after Christmas and just 15 days ago, our son—and our home in Laguna Beach—were the target of a hate crime because our son is black. He was targeted because of the color of his skin.

“We are here to today to tell you what happened, to denounce such behavior as repugnant and offensive, so that our friends, our neighbors and our fellow citizens will understand that even though we live in the bubble of Laguna Beach, we are not immune to hatred.

“And that it must stop now.

“This is what we know:

“Earlier on the night of December 27, five boys who are, just like our son, students and athletes at Laguna Beach High School, ate dinner together at a local restaurant and planned their evening. They drove to a grocery store where video cameras captured them purchasing a watermelon and other items—including toilet paper, eggs, and an eggplant—to be used in their acts of vandalism and hate.

“Chanting our sons name in unison, they drove to our house where they stopped and called our son’s name in an apparent attempt to lure him outside and then hurled the watermelon across our driveway where it smashed into pieces and landed inches from our open front door.

“Inside, we were sitting down to eat a celebratory meal with my wife’s brother, an Air Force pilot who had returned recently from a six-month tour of duty fighting ISIS. It was his fourth such tour of duty and the first time he’d seen our son—his only nephew—in more than a year.

“You could see our Christmas tree clearly from the street where they stopped their car near the lip of our driveway long enough to hurl the heavy fruit and at least one expletive and racial epithet—“F— you, n—-er!”— before careening back up the hill back into the night like the cowards they are.

Shards of watermelon on the ground outside our front door and in our carport after the racist incident two days after Christmas. Photos by Cathleen Falsani.

“On Monday, the five boys were questioned by Laguna Beach police and Laguna Beach high school officials. All have made statements implicating themselves in this hateful behavior.

“We want to praise the police department and school officials for their prompt action and full attention to this matter. At this point, it remains under investigation and therefore we will have no further comment about it or what punishments—legal and civil—the boys may receive.

“We want to emphasize that we are speaking publicly about this matter because we believe that this kind of racist, hateful, intimidating behavior is not what Laguna Beach is about. We are not here to talk about retribution or to paint ourselves or our son as victims. Because he is not. We are not. He is not. Our family was, however, targeted precisely because of the color of his skin and not the quality of his heart or character.

“Make no mistake about it. This was a hate crime.

“We are here to let the people of Laguna Beach know the facts of what happened to us and call upon everyone to stand together to send a clear, articulate message that this kind of hateful act is not tolerated in Laguna Beach. Not because of the color of someone’s skin. Not because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Not because of their religion, their ethnicity, or country of origin.

“Moreover, we are speaking out publicly with the hope that by doing so, we can help stop this from happening again. To be silent might embolden others to consider to commit similar hateful acts, believing there would be no consequences for their actions—that they can get away with it because their potential target would be too afraid or ashamed to go to the police or to call them out publicly.

“To remain silent is to give tacit permission for others to engage in similar corrosive behavior. We will not be silent.

“So let this be a teachable moment for our community. We’re known as a community that not only “tolerates” diversity and individuality but EMBRACES it.

“Let’s embrace everyone—not just those who are similar to us, or with whom we agree politically, spiritually, or in any other way.

“We have to try harder as a community. We must do better as a village, as models of behavior, character, and values for our children.

“The actions of these five boys do not define Laguna Beach and should not. We must have ZERO TOLERANCE for any acts of hate, no matter who the perpetrators are or how they express their vitriol.

“We are better—more generous, open- and kinder-hearted, than this, Laguna. Hug your children. Be kind to each other. Welcome the stranger. Reach out to those on the margins. Speak up when you see or hear anyone being mistreated.

“Love is stronger than hate.

“Thank you.”

 

Posted on: January 12, 2017

22 thoughts on “Text of Maurice Possley’s Statement to Local Reporters Re: Racist Incident at Our Home

  1. Maurice, this sickens me. Every time I think we are moving a step forward, people like this cause relations to take hundreds of steps backward. What makes people do this? I offer my sympathy and prayers for you and your family and for the aggressors, so that they may see the world differently

  2. In total support of you and your family. We are organizing bi-weekly meetings here in Laguna to guard and prepare for increased acts seemingly condoned by the incoming administration. Would love for you to join us and help direct our efforts. We’re meeting every other Tuesday, next one is January 24th.

  3. Your family is so beautiful. Blessed to know your family. Thank you for being part of our Laguna family. Please keep up the good work. God is bigger ❤🙏🏻❤

  4. Cathleen,
    Being a fellow Wheaton grad with mutual friends and very similar interests and artistic tastes, I have read your writing with fascination and pleasure as I encountered it over the years. Thank you.

    I’m sorry this has happened to your son and you all. I deeply appreciate your family’s forthright, open response. I pray God may turn to good that which the perpetrators intended for ugliness. I pray for blossoming and new depth of your son’s dignity and pride. I pray for a graceful repentance in the lives of the perpetrators that turns them around to the wonder, beauty, and goodness of life–including their own lives. Peace and strength to you and your husband as loving parents in this fearful world.

    in time with hope,
    Dave Frey,
    Beloit, Wisconsin

  5. I am really disappointed that this happened in our neighborhood. Disappointed is not strong enough. Disgusted is better. Your thoughtful and articulate reply is what I hope our community embraces. Please know that this incident is the result of thoughtless adolescent behavior and not a reflection of the community as a whole. Those boys need a good lesson in embracing diversity and compassion. So sorry this happened to your family.

  6. Thanks for posting this. And my thanks to your brother. Maybe they’d listen to him if he got them in a room together and told them to grow up.

  7. Thank you for sharing this disgusting event. I am ashamed of the act and of the five students who did this to your son and his family. As a long time resident of Laguna Beach I am deeply saddened.

  8. Heartsick. Bewildered. Angry. May they be punished to the extent that will leave an impression for a lifetime. Equal punishment for the dark painful impression they left on that boy and his family. Absolute shame.

  9. Wow. I am so saddened to hear that this happened, much less in our very privileged town. This is a reflection of what these children are learning in their homes. We all need to be aware and set good examples for our own children. Thank you for sharing what must be a difficult thing to have happen “here”. Especially with your brother in law visiting. Blessings to your entire family- may your 2017 be uplifting!

  10. Thanks for speaking up. That behavior is disgusting. These kids and their parents need to wake up. Sending love to the ones on the receiving end of such hate. ❤

  11. I hurt for you and the other good people of Laguna way over here in Chicago-Evanston. May these kids feel the depths of abject shame until they totally smother their hate and ignorance.

  12. Children are now confused more than ever… if bullying, bigotry and racism are wrong why are we choosing leaders who promote such behavior? More than ever, they need direction to be lead towards an interconnected humanistic path. As the founder of our Laguna Beach nonprofit “Ability Awareness Project” providing anti-bullying education, I have reached out to the school principal and assistant principal to hopefully get the conversation started. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend this is not happening.

  13. Growing up my entire life in Laguna Beach and being an LBHS alumni, this saddens and sickens me so much. This is not what this town is about and the privelidge to grow up in a town like this with amazing people, this act is disgraceful and disgusting.

    I think the only positive in this story is you and your family and what you stand for. Your family is truly a testament of strength. You are the opidomy of what role models should be, and an extraordinary example of exemplary humans that display the upmost examples of love, generosity, respect, honor, and what most people and families should even hope to strive to be in life. YOur family and your amazing son make me proud to be from Laguna.

    There are no words that can express my sadness and support for your family for this horrible act. I know I do not know you personally, but please know that you are supported, respected, and loved by a community of people that do not and will never condone this sort of behavior and hope that these boys who committed these acts are not only heavily punished, but more so open their eyes and evolve and learn from their ignorance to understand love for different cultures and ethnicities.

    Much Respect,

    Laura Preston Fayerman

  14. That includes hate crimes against the homeless. This watermelon thing is not even close to what I suffered by the people of Laguna Beach and the Laguna PD. Thanks for nothing.

  15. I am sickened by this. I will Pray for the 5 cowards who did this. “Know God.Know Peace.”
    “No God. No Peace.” God Bless Queenie (Poller) Dempsey –I am Dale Poller’s sister.

  16. Some people’s hearts, minds & character do not change. Fortify your son’s self-esteem & self image, Maurice. Choose associations wisely. Many are rarely who they present in words, actions & thoughts. Yet the unlikely community comes in unexpected places & people.

  17. This act is despicable and can only be treated as a hate crime. Not surprising since our president elect has spewed this kind of immoral hatred through out his campaign. Thank you for taking the high road in sharing your story. There are more of us that believe in ZERO tolerance of a hate crime than those who take the low road. We stand united in our intolerance of such acts.

  18. What sadness this brings to my heart. I come once a year to Laguna Beach to visit with my brother and his lovely family. We are an extremely diverse family and this kind of behavior must NOT be tolerated in Laguna Beach or any place else. Thank you for sharing your story as this behavior from these 5 boys MUST NOT be swept under the rug and they don’t need just a slap on the wrist. They need to have some serious consequences to go with their despicable act. Your son has an amazing set of parents. My prayers will be with you and your family. As we embark upon the inauguration of the new president of the U.S. my heart aches as we have only seen a glimpse of some of the hatred and racial injustices that seem to be running rampant within our cities. I ask for God to have grace and mercy on all of us. We are a nation that should be on n our knees every chance we get.

  19. Thanks for your thoughtful writing! Unfortunately, when adults who are supposed to be the role model for children and young adults, are taking the lead, through propaganda and the media to project their hate, young people and others will emulate those bad and negative examples. People of color, and African Americans, in particular have had to put up with all kinds of shameful and hurtful attacks. Hate, racism, xenophobia and gender/sexual discrimination must be confronted wherever and whenever they occur. Thanks for you and your courage!

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