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Workshop:Situational Bigotry Comes In Many Forms

Fearless Editorial
Anne Phyllis Pinzow

Anne Phyllis Pinzow is a script writer who makes her main living as a newspaper reporter and editor.  

I've long been an advocate of thorough research on every aspect of life, from writing a report for a third grade class to the place you're going to live. Silly I thought that most people did the same. That was until I came to see how people would buy homes without looking beyond what the real estate broker or developer told them, believing them hook, line and sinker.

New residents would move in without even asking a neighbor about, say, the faulty nuclear power facility not ten miles away, the pervasive smell of a waste water treatment plant, the huge psychiatric facility next door, or the fact that a walking trail, in the works for 10 years, was to be paved.

So people move in, settle down in a community and then, once they have a chance to look around, go head to head with the government, neighbors and local concerns to upset the status quo, to change the area into something out of the person's fantasy "Pleasantville," neighborhood.

This truth was first brought home with the vehemence brought against Indian Point. Yes, it's old, yes, it wouldn't pass muster if it were built today. Yes, it should not be in such a populated area.

But the fact is, it was here first and the population grew around it. Local and state politicians who are making brownie points with their constituencies by fighting against it were the same one's who were encouraging these same constituencies to move to the area, with the promise of lower taxes and more rateables to their older constituencies.

And those same people never bothered to think about things like, if there's a nuclear accident, how will I get me and my family away in time to save them before they signed the deeds to their homes.

While that remains a crisis situation, another more insidious one came up recently at an Orangetown town board meeting, one much more dangerous.

I point a finger without saying a name at a resident of Sparkill who bought an upscale home around five years ago which abuts the Joseph E. Clarke Rail Trail. Ever since the resident heard that it was to be paved the resident has led the screams from those homeowners that no one told them anything about it though the plans were in the works long before the developer spied the property.

What is worse is that while the trail was looked upon first as a high end amenity, now the resident came before the board and called the trail "the Spanish Highway." The resident clearly stated that because of "the Spanish Highway," the property values in the area would drop.

One can only wonder what the resident means.

Could this resident be doing honor to the many millions of immigrants from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Hispanic countries who have sacrificed so much to come here and contributed so much to build this country? Or could this resident resent the people, who serve in restaurants, take care of the elderly and sick, clean the homes of the upscale, drive their cars and take some of the dirtiest jobs around. Does this resident feel that the people, who work so hard for minimal wages so the resident doesn't have to get dirty hands, should not have the privilege to live here and that they should be deprived of the right to walk jog or run along a community walking path?

Obviously no research was done or the resident would have discovered that Orangetown has a richly diverse cosmopolitan and ethnic population. On entrance to the business district of Pearl River it clearly states that this is the town of friendly people. Oh, but the resident lives in Sparkill.

One only needed to gaze behind the resident complaining about "The Spanish Highway" at the public podium to see the new police posters printed in Spanish proclaiming that the town wants more bilingual, read, Hispanic applicants and police officers to live and serve in Orangetown.

One also wonders would the resident refuse the services of such a police officer when the resident's own attitude engenders hatred against and from that Hispanic officer?

What is even more disturbing is that there stood the chief of police proudly with his new posters, and the town council who all have encouraged the recruitment of police of different ethnic backgrounds and they said nothing, allowing the words of hatred and bigotry to drip like venom, none of them wishing to offend the politically well connected resident. Only the town supervisor made any move to halt the flow of venom.

How dare they? Which voters are they serving by tacitly agreeing by their silence that it's okay to demonstrate such prejudice in a public forum? Too bad the cameras weren't running then. Would they be so silent if the resident spewed all over the Irish, the Jews, the Koreans, the Blacks, the Italians or people of any other of the many heritages which are represented in Orangetown.

Oh, be assured that in coming weeks, once this editorial is read, these same silent representatives of the people who said nothing will have something to say about how they all don't see black or yellow, brown or white. They all deplore bigotry.

Too bad none of them said a word to the resident when they had the chance because now that resident thinks its okay. After all, the town council even agrees with the prevailing prejudicial, bigoted, and hate filled views of those who live along the "Spanish Highway," in Sparkill. If they didn't they would have said something, right?




HOMEWORK: Note the slant here is against prejudice based on race or ethnic origin.

The homework assignment is found at the end of the Editorial on Cablevision.  But read also the editorial on Nine-Eleven for a different slant.  Compare all these slants -- find the slant of your local paper(s) and do the assignment at the end of the Cablevision editorial. 

Read the other lessons by Anne Phyllis Pinzow.  Especially her Rules for good reporting.  


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