Drop the harsh defenses, ask yourself the tough questions

To the Editor:

First off, a heartfelt thank you to The Altamont Enterprise for continuing to provide fair and thoughtful coverage of recent events around local efforts to address racial discrimination and inequities in the Hilltowns. This includes giving voice to Lisa DeGroff (“The media widens the divide between the races”), and her side of the story of what happened at the overwhelmingly peaceful Black Lives Matter gathering in Berne on Aug. 9, which my husband, son, and I attended.

All sides need to be heard, and I do not condone any use of derogatory language or actions when it comes to addressing those with whom I may disagree politically.

However, the larger fact remains that none of the counter-protestors that day bothered to put on a mask and make the effort to quietly listen in on the inspired and inspiring conversation happening under the pavilion. Instead, they attempted to verbally intimidate pro-BLM attendees, and made sure to try to drown out the speakers with motorcycle roars.

They spread lies about BLM, sling the term “antifa” around without any merit, and spout some ludicrous nonsense about the veterans’ memorial being threatened, when it was more than obvious that no one attending this gathering — families, educators, religious leaders — was some crazed violent radical who would ever imagine doing any such thing. Luckily the presence of two state troopers helped keep the calm, and I made sure to thank them for their service before I left that day.

If only those counter-protestors could have set aside their rigid preconceptions and been respectful enough to try to listen to the forceful and heartbreaking testimony of Cici Ferrara about her experiences growing up in the Hilltowns. Not even a gentle-spirited man of the cloth testifying to the need to be generous and humanistic of spirit in our divided time could merit their attention.

And then we have the “Happenings in the Town of Berne” Facebook page, spreading more falsehoods about the events of Aug. 9, and deleting every single comment with which they don’t agree, then going on to block anyone who challenges their insular and rigid point of view. So much for the First Amendment!

It’s time to stop the vitriol, name-calling, insults, and hatred on both sides of this situation, because much as some Hilltowns residents want everything to “stay the same,” change is here, and it’s only going to keep coming. Every white citizen of the majority-white Hilltowns should be questioning their relationship to and history with race, specifically Blackness, in our present moment.

Every white citizen, including those who pride themselves on being “enlightened liberals,” should rigorously challenge their own behavior, practices, and belief system. Drop the harsh defenses, ask yourself the tough questions about bias, fairness, and genuine embrace of your fellow humans. A better society demands it, not just here, but everywhere.

Katherine Dieckmann



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