In Our Town

21 Sep

Not in Our Town was featured on KQED’s Forum this morning. NIOT documents and broadcasts the efforts of communities working together to stand up to hate and hate crimes. The latest in the NIOT series airs tonight on PBS: “Light in the Darkness” chronicles the response of Patchogue, NY residents when anti-immigrant violence escalated to murder in 2008. In an excerpt from the documentary, one man expresses appreciation for the communities of Patchogue coming together, but notes with regret and frustration that it took death to get people to notice and care about a deep and angry divide among them.
This reflection gave me pause. Every community has a threshold for intolerance: a point up to which the expression of bigotry is acceptable, whether because we see the perpetrator as harmless (they’re just kids or that’s just our cranky uncle Joe) or because we see the action as not having any real impact (this is the rationale kids use to defend the expression “That’s gay!” They insist it doesn’t mean anything.) And the truth is that every community has a justified target for intolerance—in the Bay Area, it may be political conservatives, people who are deemed too “showy” about their wealth, or folks who are “really” religious. But how much intolerance is already too much? What hatred are we already sweeping under the carpet (and inevitably tripping over, since out of sight does not mean out of heart and mind)? What intolerances of our own do we need to address—not ignore or deny, but actually look deeply at and understand in order to transform? Even if it never gets to murder, what is happening right here and now in our towns and schools that ask us to stand up against hate?
Check out: for more resources and discussion, including a DVD of “Light in the Darkness” and the Not in Our Schools (NIOS) movement.

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