[Marxism] Klan and antisemitism in upstate NY

Louis Proyect 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.

http://www.recordonline.com/archive/2002/12/21/jhracism.htm	2/4/2006

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 
Monroe then.

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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