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Adirondacks aren’t a getaway from racism

Two years ago, I moved out of the city to start fresh up here in the tranquility of the mountains. I had spent most of my life stretched thin between school and part-time jobs. It was late November when I arrived, and I remember the sheer stillness of everything compared to the life I had left. I thought I had found my refuge up here, but now I have come to the realization that this community is just as plagued by chaos as anywhere else.

Every year, millions are spent on this village and surrounding towns to bill it as an escape from the everyday. A simple Google search shows graceful loons calling to one another at twilight, lonesome pine trees on snow-covered mountain tops, and cozy log cabins bathed in warm, earthy smoke from a fireplace. What it does not show you is a bridge with the phrase “Go back to Africa” spray-painted across it. Google will not tell you about the countless times a banner with the words “Black Lives Still Matter” on it was taken down again and again. You will not find anywhere on the first page of search results the hateful comments said about a brave high school valedictorian who shared her experiences with racism during her graduation speech. To the rest of the world, this place is one of peace and calm, but I know it better than that.

I know that behind the great lodges and the ski resorts, this place can be a harbor for hate and ignorance. I know that even though it is marketed as a holiday for anyone, some members of our community would rather it would just be for those who are affluent, white, Christian and American. I know this because these people have made it abundantly clear with their vandalism, their heckling and their written words. With these facts in mind, it is not as special a place as it claims to be. This behavior makes it the same run-of-the-mill, predominantly white rural community plagued by racism that you will find anywhere in the United States.

I want more for this village. I want it to be a place of renewal for everyone, where a person can truly reconnect with the land to find their peace. This recent behavior shows that it is a hollow place afraid of the changing world that it is so isolated from, and no amount of quaint, rustic imagery can scrub that away. If this community truly does want to be unique, a good start would be to have a zero-tolerance policy for racism and hatred. Every member should be actively working against the teachings of white supremacy, which often find homes in rural areas such as ours. We should be showing solidarity and educating ourselves. We should be the first ones to confront this actively hateful minority amongst us, not remaining silent. If we want this community to be “Decidedly Different,” we need to start acting like we deserve that title and rooting out its hostility.

Madeline Clark lives in Saranac Lake.

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