To the editor:
I was astonished and mortified when I read that Ms. Hylton-Patterson was moving out of Saranac Lake because she felt unsafe. I am a born and raised Adirondacker, and though I am not blinded by the delusion that the Adirondacks are diverse, I had no idea that it was a community that was unsafe for Black Americans or people of color. We must do more to ensure that all individuals feel safe and supported in this, one of the country’s most beautiful natural areas.
We can no longer sit on the sidelines and claim “not racist” as a label. By simple inaction, we speak for sustaining an inequitable world, one in which racism is prevalent and tolerated. We must work for anti-racism. To actively promote and enact policies that encourage equitable treatment for all our citizens’ benefits, white and Black alike. We look to our leaders to spearhead this effort, and I believe they are failing us. To not outwardly condemn the racist actions of a few is to open the door to more such behavior and set the tone for a continuation of racism in our community. Though most are morally outraged by this flagrant attack on Black citizens, anti-racism wins when anti-racist policies are enacted.
How do we move forward? Condemn racism when we see it happen, when we hear it on the streets, in the mouths of friends, strangers, those we love. Enact policies that encourage Black businesses and property ownership by minorities. And most importantly, in our schools, we can cease teaching outdated theories that encourage a racist worldview, like states’ rights as the cause of the Civil War. We must provide more field trips to cultural meccas with opportunities to see and live in another’s shoes. We must open the next generation’s eyes to the wider world. We are an insular culture with values and morals. Without outside influence we stagnate. We must encourage voices, unlike our own, in order to grow and change.
We live in an area that can be termed a “white space,” one in which white people feel comfortable, are in the majority and feel they have the power. We cannot assume that because we are comfortable, others from different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures can also walk in to our community and feel safe. We must create space for them. We must listen to them. We must learn from them.