Letter to the Editor about District Anti-Racism and Social Justice Task Force

Jun 24, 2021

I wrote this letter to the editor of my local paper,

The Three Village Times and Herald.  It was published on June 24, 2021 under the title “District Task Force is about Education.”  The next day, there was another racial incident at my child’s elementary school, which has led me to question how much schools can really do to address this problem.  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that, but for now, here’s the column:

Three Village is a diverse community, and has been for much of our history.  The Setalcott people; enslaved Africans; Revolutionary War patriots; Eastern European, Irish and Italian factory workers; and a resilient African-American community have all called Setauket home. Today, families new to this country live side by side with families who have been here for generations.  This diversity is our strength.  It is why many of us choose to live here.  It is a community that can discuss the role of race in society – not just in America, and not just black and white – without letting it divide us.

For the past year, I have been a member of the Nassakeag Elementary School committee for the Anti-Racism and Social Justice Task Force.  I want to make this clear – the Task Force is not about politics, slogans or agendas.  It is about education.  It is the job of our schools to prepare students for the complicated, multicultural world they live in.  To give them the skills to communicate across lines that separate us.  To teach them the history that has not been taught.  To expose them to voices, perspectives and experiences different from their own.  This appreciation and respect for all people, as individuals, is one of the strongest ways to fight racism, and from my experience, the work of the Task Force.

Real education is not about blaming or shaming.  We can celebrate and be proud of the history we know, and also tell the rest of the story.  The two do not have to be in conflict.  We can teach students to see many truths at the same time, to search for facts, to seek to understand and in turn, to be understood.  The alternative is ignorance – Three Village students will know less than their peers and be unable to discuss hard topics when confronted with them.  This ignorance leads to hurtful words and, as we have seen, hate symbols carved into elementary school playgrounds.  We cannot let that be what Setauket is known for.  That is why we owe it to our students and community to support and strengthen the work of the Task Force in the coming years.