What was that? Town of Greece Board failed us

A few weeks ago, Sheila was out for a run and just around the corner noticed a noose hanging from a house. She had seen it once before but when we went to see if she was right it wasn’t up. Here it was though back in the public eye.

Concerned with the growing number of hate crimes in our communities, she sent a note to a local social justice group; Showing Up For Racial Justice, or SURJ.

Representatives from SURJ sent notices to all of our local elected officials and after some time with no response sent a press release to local media.

Behind the scenes the town did send police to ask the resident what was going on, and he agreed to take it down, but no statement was made. Let’s keep this stuff in the shadows shall we?

At this point State Senator Joe Morelle called to discuss it, but none – literally none of them released or made a statement condemning a noose in the town.

We decided at this point we would  head to the Town of Greece monthly board meeting to state in the public forum that we believe there should be a strong, unequivocal response that there is no space in this town for a noose or it’s message of hate.

Instead, the speakers were met with strong rebukes from Reilich. (Credit should be given to our Chief of Police who stated clearly that he was concerned, he sent officers to ask questions, and in the strongest way condemned the noose).

Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, when asked to condemn, stated that his work speaks for itself. In fact he had presented a young citizen of color an award for a lemonade stand just minutes prior and also had presented a local realtor with an award for being listed as one of the top Latino realtors in the country.

This is fine, and acceptable, because at this point he was not himself, nor were the board being called racist. They were being asked to state without qualifiers that the noose was not welcome and they would not stand for it. No one even implied the board or supervisor were racist.

Here is a simple statement he could have responded with, “While we respect our citizens individual right to hang that object of hate covered by the 1st amendment rights, I condemn them for doing so. Hate has no place in our community”

He could have made both sides happy with a statement like this. We would have thanked him and continued to work to stomp out racism.

Before public forum time occurs, The Supervisor states the rules – Clearly stating this is a chance to address the board, and not a question and answer period. There would be an enforced 3 minute time limit for each speaker.

Ann from SURJ was up first, She started to speak, and was immediately cut off (so much for no question and answer) Then she was told she was wrong, and then cut off again one more time before finishing.

Sheila went next – Was again cut off.  Incredulously the Supervisor asked “what more do you want from me” When he was again asked to condemn. He hedged… saying his work speaks for itself, that our growing minority population PROVES this…. Somehow if there are people of color, racism just doesn’t occur….. I digress. She then attempted to ask our Town Ward representative what she would do about this and was reprimanded that this was not a Q&A session and all statements to the board should be made through him, the chair. Sheila did not let this deter her and continued on with her statement speaking truth to power.

A 3rd woman stepped up, she too was interrupted – and thankfully was a strong enough woman to state “You said this was not question and answer time, so are you going to let me finish?”.

3 women, all asking the same thing – Will you condemn?… No, was the answer. He was unwilling to simply state it. People in the audience even yelled out “just say it” he would not. The look of discomfort (and anger/frustration was growing).

Next, is the typical response to racism in white America….. 3 white men stood to speak.

  1. He let the audience know that the town had hired black police officers and other minorities before other communities (the ol I have a black friend, I can’t be a racist defense). As he spoke, he did ask the town to be more proactive in working to encourage people of color to join their own ranks, the police ranks, and the fire department ranks, and asked the supervisor to condemn white nationalism (he did not do this) – He was not cut off, not interrupted and ran the full allotment of his time.
  2. This man spoke (fire chief, but not there as a representative he stated) and then went on to say that women and minorities need to apply AND (his emphasis not mine) be qualified to get those jobs. He actually, as he waved his hand flippantly said “women, and those things”. He was also not cut off at any point.
  3. The third man, who made it clear that he came to every single board meeting (as if this somehow gives his public statement any more merit than the previous) claimed there was NO racism on this board, in the police department, or in the town governments – He stated he was ashamed to hear it (and outside, after the meeting loudly and aggressively began arguing with the women from SURJ to tell them they were wrong.) This man also went several minutes past the allotted time and was not once even reminded of that, they just let him continue and even turned off the timer from beeping at him.

Then in a statement to the news, Supervisor Reilich said this :“I do not tolerate nor condone any acts of violence or discrimination. The individual meant no ill intent. He indicated (the noose) had been there for 10 years. I moved swiftly and had the situation taken care of.”

Let’s break this down:

He does not condemn, he states he does not tolerate, yet he also stated that the noose has been up for 10 years, so which one is it? 10 years ago, a new President was elected, a black man. The timing on that is suspicious at best and maybe should  have been left out because you indicate that for 10 YEARS members of the community you lead were comfortable  hanging a noose from their front porch.

Then, after continuing to refuse to condemn the noose which is different than not condoning, he defends the resident who hung it. DEFENDS him “The individual meant no ill intent”.

I struggle to 1. See how there would be no ill  intent of  hanging a noose, and 2. How he as a leader in this community would repeat such a phrase.

The three women who spoke against it were treated with less respect than the man who hung a noose from his house.

The Town of Greece is full of racism. I sat in my neighbors home to watch the Mayweather v McGregor fight to hear multiple examples . 1. I hope Connor knocks those fat lips off of his face and 2. I can’t wait for Connor to knock this n*gg*r out.

America first… .Only if you are white?

A quick google search will show the town has issues

  1. A car spray painted with racial slurs – The apartment complex with the same “we don’t condone” but not a condemnation as our town reps.
  2. An opinion wondering aloud if the town board itself is racist
  3. Or how about these quoted from students of color in the town of greece schools?
  4. Or how about the official town police facebook page allowing these comments to live in the light of day? Not to mention just how comfortable residents are making them.

So no ,speaking directly to you now, Supervisor Reilich,  your work does not speak for itself.

YOU need to speak for yourself.

Your blatant sexism also needs to be called out. 3 women, all interrupted. 3 men not. In other words 100% of the women got kick back and 0% of the men. It was embarrassing to see.

You have been elected, by your own words, 12 times (is that accurate? I need to look it up) and it is clear at this point who is keeping you in office. The residents of this town who are minorities and those who are not racist deserve for you to speak up and state with NO qualifiers that this is not OK. That you are working to fix it. People of color in the town deserve better.

You and the board need some training. You need to learn what implicit bias is, you need to dig deep into the world of structural and institutional racism – but my gut tells me you will not because you do not think this is an area that you lack. Trust me, it is.

You should resign.

If you don’t Sheila and I will be working to get you voted out.

 

 

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