When I returned from seeing the new Spike Lee movie, BlackkKlansman, about Ron Stallworth, the first African American officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, I read the news that racist stickers had been posted in Princeton, about one block from my house. I was already upset by listening to the hatred spewed by Klan members on the movie screen. Knowing that this hatred persists in my time, in my town, infuriated me.
Racism and white supremacy are very familiar to me. I am active in the local anti-racism organization Not in Our Town Princeton. Like many people who are upset by racism, I immediately wanted to act. This letter is my first response. I call on my fellow townspeople to take action. We must:
- Educate ourselves about the true history of our town history, which includes all people who have resided here, but especially the Lenape, on whose lands the town was built by white British colonists, and the African American community, which was founded by enslaved and free Africans and African Americans and their descendants, who continued to experience the humiliation of Jim Crow segregation and present day discrimination. Read Kitsi Waterston’s I Hear My People Singing, voices from the Witherspoon-Jackson community. Take Shirley Satterfield’s tour and hear about the life of that neighborhood. https://princetonhistory.org/visit/group-tours/. Advocate for racial literacy education for students and staff in our schools.
- Do the inner work necessary to understand the unconscious implicit bias we all hold as the result of indoctrination through media, education, peers, family, American society. Take the implicit bias test at Project Implicit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
- Speak out every time we see or hear discriminatory actions or remarks in our homes, our workplaces, our faith communities, and our social circles.
- Make contact with people of different identities, races, religions, ethnicities. Attend Not in Our Town’s Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege at 6:30 p.m. on the first (non-holiday) Monday of each month at the Princeton Public Library. The next meeting is Tuesday, September 4. The topic is “Racial Battle Fatigue: In This Time of Turmoil.” Presenter: Dr. Don Trahan.
- Donate to organizations, especially local groups, that work to eliminate racism such as Not in Our Town Princeton niotprinceton.org, the Paul Robeson House https://www.paulrobesonhouse.org/, Kidsbridge https://kidsbridgecenter.org/, and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund https://laldef.org/
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said “For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.” I trust that the good people of Princeton will not ignore these racist, hateful acts.