Community members are invited to learn about white nationalism from the inside during this year’s One Book, One New Paltz. The book being discussed, Rising Out of Hatred: the Awakening of a Former White Nationalist recounts how Derek Black, heir apparent to the “largest racist web site in the world,” learned to question the beliefs he’d been taught his entire life and repudiate the movement. From November 3-9 a number of community events have been organized to provide opportunities to grok the message of dialog and redemption central to Black’s transformed thinking.
One Book, One New Paltz is an annual collection of “community conversations” around a specific book, according to Robin Jacobowitz, a member of the volunteer organizing committee. The beginning of November will have many conversational opportunities, but only because these committee members have been working throughout the year to make it happen. It begins with a search for a book that’s topical and thought-provoking, and then the volunteers bring in people from all corners of the community to generate the best conversations possible.
For this year’s selection, participants will be able to attend discussions at several different venues: locations on campus, as well as the Elting Memorial Library, Inquiring Minds bookstore, the Jewish Community Center and Woodland Pond. Two panel discussions will draw in the perspective of younger people, reflecting their own experiences of racism the challenges of overcoming a dominant ideology in one’s life. Author Saslow will participate in a discussion during a digital media and journalism class on campus, and community members are invited to listen in. All events are free and open to members of the public, but the Saslow discussion and some of the other events require registration as space is expected to fill up quickly. A full schedule of events is available through the Benjamin Center.
The perception about New Paltz is that it’s a progressive community, yet as white nationalism has emerged more prominently nationally there have been more difficult conversations locally about the presence of racism here. In the school district, a racial equity committee was formed in response to hateful graffiti, but people of color assert that these incidents stretch back decades. On campus, a difficult conversation around renaming dormitories named for people who owned slaves still remains a sore subject for some. Black, whose story is recounted in the book, wasn’t exposed to any alternative viewpoints until he enrolled in college and credits those who were willing to speak to him rather than ostracize him for helping him change his mind. Those conversations could well be echoed when New Paltz residents dig into this volume and talk about it in November.
In addition to Sorin and Jacobowitz, committee members include John Giralico, Linda Welles, Mark Colvson, Carrie Allmendinger and Shelley Sherman. As many hands make light work, they would be quite pleased to get help from other community members in making this special program possible in future years. Jacobwitz’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
A full schedule of events is available at www.newpaltz.edu/benjamincenter/events/one-book-one-new-paltz.