Saugerties Town Board speaks out against racial and gender bias

The Saugerties town board has gone on record as opposing racial and gender bias, and has asked all residents to do the same. “We make the pledge to only be involved in projects cleared of all color and gender bias, and will work to correct past actions that have had a negative impact on those of color,” the resolution states. Saugerties residents are asked “to join in treating each other with respect and work together in these trying times to overcome all expressions of hate and bigotry.”

The resolution was padded unanimously.

While some in the community feel that racial equality is no longer an issue, it was still an issue, Ivino said, and that was why he was bringing this motion forward. 

Councilman John Schoonmaker, who had been to Washington the previous weekend at a march for criminal justice reform and racial equality, said the event had been inspiring, and the board’s resolution was needed. Schoonmaker noted that a group in Saugerties rallies every day to remind the public that the country still has a long way to reach real racial equality. He said the local police force could serve as an example for other police forces in the area of sensitivity to racial and economic issues. 

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Supervisor Fred Costello agreed. “The fight to make our country more perfect and more equal is certainly not over,” he said, “and we understand that we have to do better and see it through.” Costello praised the Saugerties police, “We are proud of the efforts that they have made,” he said. “Our department takes these issues very seriously, and they would not tolerate some of the things that are happening across the country.” 

Costello praised Schoonmaker and Michael Ivino for the resolution. Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said her four-year-old granddaughter, like other children her age, “do not see color.” As a teacher, Thornton has tried to instill that value in the children she has taught, she said.

There is one comment

  1. Bill H

    This pledge is commendable as a signal of commitment to facing some of the racial equities in our town. I think a good next step could be to work together on establishing some specific actionable goals in order to achieve greater racial equality. That is what Black folks have been asking for. Not statements so much as action that leads to meaningful change. One action might be creating pathways for people of color to positions of power in the town, and then encouraging them to run for those positions. Another might be this: instead of simply stating that the town’s citizens treat everyone fairly, the board can organize discussions that confront racial issues in our town. This is a wonderful town, but we have to be able to admit that both overt and covert acts of racism are in the fabric of our community.

    Also, I would like to challenge white people (it is almost always white people) who have adopted the ideology of “color blindness” to explore how that way of seeing (or not seeing) can often render white people unable to see systemic racial injustice. That ideology can allow us white people to avoid facing what is very real, lived experience of non-white people in our community. That includes what happens in our classrooms. Asking ourselves who is represented in the texts we assign, the problems we explore, the history we learn, and who is NOT represented, begs us to boldly face racial and ethnic differences. That is if we are not blind to it. Do Black kids see themselves in the stories that mostly white teachers are assigning? Or are white teachers still hanging on to their beloved The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby? “Color blindness” also denies folks who do not belong to the dominant racial group important aspects of their racial and ethnic identity. Every one is not the same. Only white people enjoy the luxury of thinking that we are.

    Here are a few resources on the problem of white “color blindness”:

    “Educators Must Disrupt Colorblind Ideologies”
    https://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2020/02/educators_must_disrupt_color_blind_ideologies.html

    “Colorblindness: the new racism?”
    https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2009/colorblindness-the-new-racism

    Mellody Hobson TED talk: “Color blind or color brave?”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKtALHe3Y9Q

    “Colorblindness is Counterproductive” The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/color-blindness-is-counterproductive/405037/

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