Farmington police are investigating the origins of a threatening and racist card that was mailed last week to a Black, incoming member of the town's new Racial Equality Task Force.
The card arrived in the mailbox of community leader Jessica Harrison over the weekend and appears to be a faux, orange “hunting license” for Black Americans that repeatedly uses a racial slur.
Harrison reported the mail to police, who said Tuesday they have launched an investigation in tandem with postal inspectors to try to locate and charge the anonymous sender.
The incident prompted the Farmington Town Council to issue its support for Harrison and a sharp rebuke of the “malicious and disgusting display of racism” the card represents.
“A heinous act like this, you scratch your head, you think things like this are in the past,” Town Council Chairman C.J. Thomas said. “But when they rear their ugly head, it emphasizes why we need these discussions and a task force like this in our town and across the country. Hopefully people do listen instead of just talk.”
Harrison and her partner discovered the hunting license and accompanying message on Sunday and initially feared the person who sent it had dropped it off personally and could potentially return, she said. But then they noticed the envelope the card came in appeared to be stamped and mailed locally through the U.S. Postal Service based on the processing markings on the envelope, she added.
“It’s crazy, it’s really crazy,” Harrison said late Tuesday afternoon. “I can’t imagine what I would have said that would warrant them sending me something like that.”
Difficult conversations about racial injustice have gripped the country since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day. Farmington has not been immune to the rallies and racial reckonings that followed.
Harrison often found herself at the center of those conversations in Farmington, helping display Black Lives Matter signs on the town's so-called Big Bird Bridge and organizing a rally at the Unionville Gazebo. This month, she was appointed to be part of the town's new Racial Equality Task Force that expects to tackle issues of racial justice in the small, overwhelmingly white town.
But both events earlier this summer prompted pushback from some town residents and led to heated conversations in the comments on the busy town Facebook pages.
It could have been one of those Facebook exchanges that prompted the racist card sent to Harrison, but she said she does not know for sure who sent it. Handwritten on the back of the card, the sender references an insult.
“This is not a threat, but an Insult,” the back of the card reads. “You know all about Insulting People. You Insulted me.”
She informed Farmington police about the card and they brought it in to inspect, she said.
Lt. Timothy McKenzie said the department takes the incident "very seriously" and detectives are working with the USPS Inspection Service to trace where the envelope was mailed and who might have sent it.
The card is shocking, but not surprising, said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP. A rash of racist incidents this summer across the state, including in some of its smaller and whiter towns, has illustrated that racism persists in every corner of the country, he said.
“Even though we’re taking a lot of steps forward, so much still needs to be changed,” Esdaile said. “You’d think this stuff would be happening down in Mississippi and Alabama, and it’s very sad to see it’s going on in Connecticut, which is supposed to be a liberal state. Farmington is supposed to be a very liberal area.
“This type of behavior is not new to us or new to Farmington, but it’s still frustrating,” he continued. “People who are trying to make a better state and a better community are being targeted. I would encourage Ms. Harrison to stay strong and continue the fight.”
Farmington’s new committee expects to begin meeting in the coming weeks and includes eight citizens, members of the human relations board and two youths to discuss issues of racial injustice in town, Thomas said. The group will prepare recommendations to begin to address racial inequalities, which ultimately will go to the full town council for approval, he added.
Harrison is hopeful, but not quite confident, that it will be possible to identify the sender, but that may be beside the point, she said.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support. People who haven’t said anything ever are speaking up or at least reaching out,” she said. “I do believe my town is moving in the right direction. I just want people to know that while people are doing the work, this is still a real thing.”
The card appears to be an aged piece of racist memorabilia that the sender may have owned for a long time. She suggested the person should retrieve it from the police department any time because their threat did not work.
“I’m not stopping,” she said. “You wasted your time and your postage.”
Zach Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.
©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.