[Marxism] Klan and antisemitism in upstate NY
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 8 10:35:18 MST 2013
The swastikas, the students recalled, seemed to be everywhere: on walls,
desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide — even
on a student’s face.
A picture of President Obama, with a swastika drawn on his forehead,
remained on the wall of an eighth-grade social studies classroom for
about a month after a student informed her teacher, the student said.
For some Jewish students in the Pine Bush Central School District in New
York State, attending public school has been nothing short of a
nightmare. They tell of hearing anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, and
horrific jokes about the Holocaust.
They have reported being pelted with coins, told to retrieve money
thrown into garbage receptacles, shoved and even beaten. They say that
on school buses in this rural part of the state, located about 90
minutes north of New York City and once home to a local Ku Klux Klan
chapter president, students have chanted “white power” and made Nazi
salutes with their arms.
The proliferation and cumulative effect of the slurs, drawings and
bullying led three Jewish families last year to sue the district and its
administrators in federal court; they seek damages and an end to what
they call pervasive anti-Semitism and indifference by school officials.
I was totally unaware Pine Bush's past, a town about a half-hour from my
hometown in Sullivan County that borders on Orange County. This quote
from the article gives you an idea of how Sullivan County is regarded by
a Pine Bush resident:
>>At that point, a pickup truck pulled up nearby, and a man emerged.
The man, John Barker, 42, a mechanic, cautioned that “everybody watches
out for everybody.” When asked about the presence of Jewish families, he
blurted out, “We don’t want them in our town.”
“They can’t drive, for number one — and they already have Sullivan
County. Who really wants them here? They don’t belong here.”<<
I wonder if the Jews referred to in the article are observant Jews, the
kind that wear skullcaps. I also wonder if the deepening resentment is
fueled by economic hardship.
In Googling a bit further, I discovered this article from the Middletown
Times-Herald. Middletown is next to Pine Bush.
The Times Herald-Record, December 21, 2002
The North not excluded from America's racist past
By Jeremiah Horrigan
If Northerners didn't have the South to kick around every now and then,
we'd probably have to invent it. It's been said the South is the land of
the burning cross, the segregationist senator, the redneck assassin. So
when a powerful Southern politician like Trent Lott repents his sins,
Northerners - especially white Northerners - can warm themselves in the
knowledge that at least our people never did anything so heinous. Or did
they? You want cross-burnings? They used to light up the night at places
like Snake Hill in Newburgh, Point Peter inPort Jervis and across the
Delaware on Heaters Hill in Matamoras, Pa. Lynchings? There are three
recorded lynchings of black men in New York state.
One took place in Buffalo.The other two happened in Newburgh and Port
Jervis. You think talk about the Klan is ancient history? Tell that to
the woman who needed a police escort to escape a Pine Bush Board of
Education meeting in the early '70s. The subject was open housing, and
the president of the school board at the time was the wife of the grand
dragon of the local and very active Ku Klux Klan "klavern."
Did someone say the Klan is ancient history? Fast forward from the '70s
to 1999 and Town of Montgomery resident James Sheeley, the home-grown
self-styled grand dragon of a newly spawned "branch" of the KKK.
Sheeley was the guy whose "white pride" demonstration in New York City
drew 17 unmasked Klansmen and women and 6,000 outraged protesters. One
such person, a 56-year-old white man, shouted "Death to the Klan" and
socked Sheeley in the left eye.
Optimists can say Sheeley's puny turnout proved the Klan is as dead as
the Confederate Civil War veterans who founded it. Pessimists can say
the public manifestations of Klan rallies are only the tip of an iceberg
of racial hatred that still floats beneath the American consciousness.
Pessimists can point to a Web site - hatedirectory.com - which tracks
the proliferation of racial hate groups on the net. Print it out and
you'll have 95 pages of fine-print cyber-hate.
If it's true that Southern-style segregation was a matter of benighted
legislation, it's also true that in the North, segregation was de facto
- in fact, regardless of legal definitions.
"I grew up on the Lower East Side and it was all de facto in the
schools," says A. J. Williams-Myers, a professor of black studies at
SUNY New Paltz.
"People have to realize it [racism] was largely a matter of custom and
tradition in the North, of restrictive covenants in housing, for example."
Here's a quick glimpse of 1940s Monroe [a village near Middletown that
now has a rapidly growing orthodox Jewish community]:
A small group of Jews had just converted a house on Stage Road into a
temple and picked their first president. Not long afterward, locals
burned the president in effigy on Lake Street.
"It made you feel uneasy," recalls Eric Nathan, one of the few Jews in
He and his wife, Erna, had seen worse. They were smuggled out of Germany
during the Holocaust and were lucky to be alive. Most of their families,
including both sets of parents, died in Hitler's gas chambers. The
Nathans came to Monroe in 1943, moved to Central Valley in 1951 and have
been there since.
Eric Nathan recalls some people wearing swastikas in this little
community when he and his wife settled in Monroe. No one persecuted them
or prevented Jews from gathering at their new temple, he says. But
racism was obvious.
As Williams-Myers sees it, the poison of racism proceeds from the
American experience of slavery and persists to this day. Again, it's a
disease that's not limited to the South:
"The hands of the North are not clean - the residue of racism remains
today." White Americans, Williams-Myers says, live in a state of
"historical amnesia." "We've been told racism isn't as significant as it
used to be, but it's more subtle than it ever was," he says.
"Look at the drop-out rate, unemployment, the prison population, the
health statistics. That's where you'll find African-Americans today."
Sure, Trent Lott was wrong. Condemn him. But then take a look at your
own community. How many people of color hold positions of power?
"White America is in denial," he says, "and whenever memory comes into
play, it's selective at best."
Staff writer Chris McKenna contributed to this report.
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