Printed in the Cortland Standard in November
To the Editor:
Like other people I was outraged to hear about the distribution of racist literature in Cortland, and I was encouraged by the unanimous condemnation of such attempts to spread hatred in our community.
However, unlike the Cortland Standard editorial, and other viewpoints expressed in the paper, I don't believe that Cortland County is free of racism. All of us have been raised in a society which breeds racism and other attitudes of hate. Very few of us grew up in racially-mixed neighborhoods, attending multi-ethnic schools and socializing with people of diverse backgrounds. As a result of this, we have internalized racist and other oppressive beliefs. Additionally, this nation was in many ways founded on racism: the enslavement of Africans and the near genocide of Native Americans. Despite the fact that slavery is no longer legal, white men remain in most of the powerful positions in our society. These issues are further complicated by the fact that there is no sizable population of people of color in Cortland County.
Hate-mongers are found throughout our society. It is to our credit that we are condemning the most virulent forms of such belief and action, however this isn't enough. We must do more if we want our community to become a place where people of all backgrounds will feel welcomed. The group most popular for attack at the current time is gay men and lesbians. As with other traditionally oppressed groups, people of conscience have a responsibility to speak out against these hateful attitudes and stand with those targeted by oppression of any kind.
As the winter holidays approach, I expect that I will frequently have to remind my neighbors, co-workers and others that not all of us celebrate Christmas. This is but one small example of an assumption which is a subtle form of racism. A true commitment to freedom for all people reuires self-reflection about our own attitudes and a willing to challenge the attitudes of those around us.