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Letter: An ongoing pledge to stand united against hate and intolerance

Opinion / Letters September 14, 2021

Not In Our Town Northport, the local anti-hate and anti-bullying group, met some resistance at the district’s last board of education meeting, where one resident took to the podium and said, in reference to a swastika etched into a slide at a local elementary school earlier this month:

“Crime happens everywhere. You don’t know if that was some kid… or some crazy skinhead racist. But I will say, in Northport, and I have been here 28 years, I really haven’t seen too much in my town, that has been really bad.”

And in reference to the lawn signs, displayed by over 350 community members in Northport and East Northport over the past year, and branded with the national tagline to “Stop Hate. Together,” the same resident said:

“I do get a little confused when I see the Not In Our Town signs. It’s nice and I get it. But I don’t get it in this town. Because this town never had it. We may have an instance or two, a couple of bad things here and there, but not too much crime here.”

A group of us NIOT Northport members were in attendance at that meeting, seated not too far from the podium. There was talk that the board would be discussing its goals for the 2021-2022 school year, and that one of those goals would be to foster a more inclusive and accepting environment for our children. One of our founders had just spoken up in support of those efforts, and against that swastika on the slide.

A lack of diversity in our community does not equate to a lack of intolerance in our community. Acknowledging this intolerance does not take away from the countless good people here, either.

Any time – and every time – a symbol of hate shows up in our community, we should stand in solidarity against it.

When the man finished speaking, two women gave him a standing ovation. One of them, on her way out of the auditorium, said to us as she passed:

“This group has got to go.”

In the hallway, she said we were a “cult” that needed to be “dismantled and dismembered.”

We’ve spoken in length about how to address these issues, of what seems to us to be an anti anti-hate stance. Why is calling out acts of hate in our community a divisive issue? Why is teaching our children to be upstanders, to stick up for classmates being bullied, frowned upon? Do people really think racism and bigotry do not exist here, that an anti-hate group in our town is a bad thing?

We were recently asked if these instances of opposition would hinder our efforts around town.

We are confident when we say the events of last week have invigorated us.

We hope you’ll join us on October 16, from 10am to 12:30pm in Cow Harbor Park in Northport Village, for our second annual NIOT in the Park gathering. Stay tuned for more info!

Your neighbors at NIOT Northport