To the Editor: I am done being quiet

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Dear Crozet Gazette,

I am writing you under the most unfortunate of circumstances. I write on behalf of the very large number of us who are feeling very hurt and helpless right now and need a platform on which to start a meaningful conversation.

Just since this summer break started I have, in my very own circle of friends, stood by as numerous acts of racism occurred in our little town. The first was in the form of a message that went out to an entire neighborhood. In short terms, it was a red flag that was raised merely because an African-American solicitor (with visible identification), had set foot on the individual’s front door, knocked, and rang the doorbell. So the police were called! The police were called!!

I am thankful to say that this “red flag” was not well received by many in the neighborhood as was evident by the ensuing firestorm that quickly spread across social networks and the “word-of-mouth-effect” of Crozet. Many kind, sorrowful, and outraged neighbors came to the sides of the African-American families in their neighborhood. Families who became, in an instant, unsure of not only their acceptance, but also their safety. Who in the world can blame them? Five minutes of watching today’s news immediately imprints into one’s mind what African-Americans are facing in this country: discrimination, terror, and uncertainty not seen in a generation!

Unfortunately there also came a sense of denial of the situation. A desire to focus more on the solicitation factor (as a licensed solicitor is what the person ended up being), or the “what if’s” of the insinuations of the email sent. A desire to add grey to the black and white (no pun intended) situation at hand. The situation being the irrevocable effects that so few words had on the African-American families on the receiving end of this email, and in the community at large. The situation that, regardless of intent, people—no, NEIGHBORS—had been made to fear for their own safety, merely for the color of their skin. What era are we in again?

This was all before one of my best friends became a target in yet another incident. He’s a friend who is a loving husband, a first-time father to a one-year-old, a man who works tirelessly and selflessly for his family, and a friend who has put his very own life and safety at risk to come to my aid before. This man was walking home from the park one recent afternoon, alone with his child, and all of a sudden found himself on the receiving end of malicious taunting. Stone cold, repeated taunting of words that should never be repeated. Words that have been banned from any civil person’s mouth years ago. And after the words came threats. When my friend turned to the offenders, he was faced with unapologetic laughter and sneers. All this taking place in a seemingly progressive, densely populated, close-knit, kid-friendly neighborhood, by a young PUNK (for lack of a better word), as his young punk friends stood by. Imagine my horror. Imagine theirs. This was the first time this little family had ever been directly faced with racism, and it was in their neighborhood and safe haven.

It pains me to say that these aren’t the only instances of discrimination and racism that I have witnessed literally (and solely) just in the past month. The others were in a professional setting (that’s right, this town’s own businesses) so I must refrain. But I can assure you, it is just as outrage worthy.

So here I am, doing all I can think of for these families, my friends, who are wondering if they are safe in Crozet. We need something to confront this growing elephant in the room. With all that’s going on in this country and now in our community, the silence has become deafening. How can we console the hurt circulating our community?

Something has got to give, because I refuse to believe that the town I grew up in and am raising my children in has regressed to the point where we are prepared to accept this as our new reality.

I cannot accept that the only thing that can be done is to send sorrowful emails to the next family or individual that has to face this. I don’t know what the answer is other than to bring a spotlight to the issue, as SO many Crozetians have said they want to do.

I do know, though, that as far as my family and I go, I am done being quiet about it. I ask each parent in the community to talk to each other and more importantly, talk to their kids. Tell them that they have a responsibility to their community to be sure that ALL of their friends feel safe, happy, and equal. To sternly and swiftly hold accountable those who feel differently, and let those people know that THEY are the minority now. They are the ones that Crozet and the world have no room for. And then I ask you to follow the words you have spoken.

Claire Fisher
Crozet

 

 

 

27 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks so much for your heartfelt story Claire. I am also shocked by all the recent spikes in hate and bigotry. You are to be commended for courageously breaking the silence.

  2. Very sorry and surprised to hear about this. Thank you for the essay. Suggestion: Peace-loving people throughout the area, please show up to the Independence Day parade in Crozet on Sunday, July 5th, with messages of unity to stand against racism.

  3. Claire,

    We don’t know each other, and I dont even know where Crozet is, but I am sharing your letter with the world via Twitter. Thank you so much for speaking out.

    Ed Drain

  4. Thank you for your wonderful letter , I’m sharing with my FB friends and hope they do the same . If people all over this country think there are NO racial problems , then they just may be a racist ! This Needs to stop in all our little towns ! We need to speak up and address racial comments made by people we work with and yes even our friends and family ( do they even realize what they are saying?) well let’s make them aware of their words and tell them we are offended , It just may make Them THINK !

  5. Unfortunately Ms. Claire Fisher, you must be either racist yourself or you simply jump to conclusions. In the case referenced in the following paragraph, you are simply totally wrong:

    “Just since this summer break started I have, in my very own circle of friends, stood by as numerous acts of racism occurred in our little town. The first was in the form of a message that went out to an entire neighborhood. In short terms, it was a red flag that was raised merely because an African-American solicitor (with visible identification), had set foot on the individual’s front door, knocked, and rang the doorbell. So the police were called! The police were called!!”

    This occurred in Old Trail where there is a no solicitation policy that is clearly marked with signs at the entrances. In this case you jumped to conclusions by saying that the person who called the police was racist. That is clearly wrong and you should be ashamed for jumping to this conclusion. There were issues in Old Trail where individuals claiming to be businesses canvassing door to door were actually looking into homes to rob. The police actually suggested to residents to let them know when it happened so that they could investigate. The author of the post you are referring to simply gave a description of the solicitor and did what the police suggested. Describing someone as “african american”, “white”, “asian” or whatever in the case of an investigation is clearly not racist.

    You were clearly out of line and you should look in the mirror before you call others racists. I suggest you issue an apology as well in this case.

    • Hi Susan,
      Can we please add your last name to the comment you posted in reply to Claire’s letter? We prefer conversations not be carried on anonymously on our site, because using real names encourages constructive dialogue among real community members and neighbors. Let me know. Thanks!
      Allie

      • Well it’s interesting Allie, that you only asked me to share my last name. Now can you share why that would be?

        • Other comments did not seek response in the way I interpreted yours to. I attempted to contact you via email but your address bounced back.

          I would prefer every one to use their full names, which is our official policy.

          Why would it be that you would not like to use your real name in this dialogue? The idea is to have a civilized discussion between neighbors.

          • I encourage you to submit your own letter to the editor for the upcoming edition. We do appreciate your comments.

          • I would encourage the editor to ensure a consistent policy for all who write in. It was very interesting that you only asked the single person with a different view for more information when others responded as I did.

            And to further add to the story and how incorrect Claire Fisher was in her original account of the circumstances, let me elaborate. After the individual contacted police because people were soliciting illegally in the neighborhood the individuals did NOT have a permit from Albemarle County which is required.

            Furthermore, and even more disturbing, one of the individuals was wanted on an arrest warrant.

            When one contacts the police to report a potential crime, they do ask for a description of the individual(s) involved. That includes sex, race, clothes, etc. It is absurd to say that someone was “racist” for reporting information which ultimately led to a criminal being arrested.

            So I would ask Ms. Fisher to either fully understand the entire story or, better yet, refrain from passing judgement on people.

          • Hi Sue,
            The Gazette would still be happy to publish your response to Claire’s letter in the upcoming edition if you will give permission. I apologize for singling you out. The policy remains from our founding, that we request all commenters to use their real full names to encourage constructive conversation. Like I said, I initially emailed and asked for your name because your comment requested a response (in the form of an apology) while Michelle’s and Shelly’s did not. They have also been asked to use their full names. I was unable to contact you by email, so I posted the request here. Thanks again for commenting and I hope you will consider submitting your letter formally to the editor for publication.

    • Susan, I will not apologize because the stance I took was from people hurt by the email. As I clearly stated, THAT is my concern. There were many people offended by the email, I DO know that first hand and it is something that simply cannot be disputed. So your argument irrelevant. Solicitation is a very different matter and one I have no interest in discussing.
      The outpour of appreciation for my letter to the editor has been amazing. I have no regrets what so ever.

      • Unfortunately Claire, you are missing an opportunity to correct your wrong. You should absolutely apologize because you have passed judgement publicly on someone incorrectly. You should be bigger than that, but unfortunately you are not. Your choice.

        And of course you have no desire to even admit the facts. The key fact is that one of the solicitors had an outstanding arrest warrant and the resident contacting the police may have prevented another crime from being committed.

        The real “racists” are those who artificially claim racism. Perhaps you should re-read what you wrote from THAT context.

    • Susan B., in response to your comments… I agree with what Claire has written. Although I do feel the woman who wrote that letter in Old Trail was not trying to be racist, she unfortunately came off that way. Nowhere in her letter did she even state that she was concerned and called the police because of a solicitor. The word “solicitor” was never in her email to the neighborhood. She only stated it was an African American man with identification around his neck. Maybe if she put more emphasis on the fact that he was a solicitor and less emphasis on his skin color, the email wouldn’t have gotten such a negative response.
      Everything Claire wrote in her letter was beautifully written and very well worded. As the wife of a black man and my child being biracial, she spoke the words I have tried to find myself. I commend her for publicly addressing the situation, and proudly signing her name, so a conversation can be started about a topic that is all to present in my life and many others!

      • Thank you for your response. Please read my most recent response to Claire F. There was no racism involved. It was a concerned citizen trying to do the right thing. And, as I have stated, she identified a criminal with an outstanding arrest warrant. We should commend the individual for sending out the email to the community and calling the police!

        • I’m sorry but you are missing the point. The resident who wrote that email is not in the wrong for writing it. She is not in the wrong for calling the cops. She should be thanked because it caught a criminal. The only point that Claire is trying to make is that she worded the email in such a way that brought attention to his color and nothing else! She never mentioned he was a solicitor. She only mentioned he was an African American. And that, and ONLY that, is why her email was taken the way it was. If Claire needs to apologize, then there is no doubt that the Old Trail resident should have to do the exact same thing!

          • Becky, I’m sorry but you are quite wrong. I have the original post the resident made and it clearly indicated that the individuals were soliciting in Old Trail. The resident appropriately described them so others could be on the lookup. She used the same description when she described them to the police. Again, appropriately.

        • “An African American just knocked on my door and rang the doorbell. He had some kind of identification around his neck. I immediately called the police. They are going to send out a patrol car to look around the neighborhood.”

          • Becky, I’m not sure why you and others are trying to deceive everyone.

            Here’s the title on the email post exactly as it was written:

            “Solication in Upper Ballard Field”

            Now, why did you state that it was never mentioned that the individual was a solicitor?

          • I think changing the facts in the case will do much to highlight the implicit racism in the e-mail referenced above. Let’s say that instead of being African American, the solicitor in question was in fact a white man. In this case, if the e-mailer/police caller was in fact motivated to call the police due to the fact that the person in question was a solicitor, and not due to race (let’s take Susan B’s word that this is her motivation here, for purposes of the hypo), what would the e-mail have said? We can’t know for sure, but we can hazard a very good guess that it would have said “A man just knocked on my door and rang the doorbell. He had some kind of identification around his neck. I immediately called the police. They are going to send out a patrol car to look around the neighborhood.” What’s interesting about this statement is the lack of any reference to race. That’s because in our culture, the default race is white. One can argue it’s necessary to use race for purposes of identification – so that everyone is alerted to the fact that there is a person out there who shouldn’t be, and so that we can all know what that person looks like. But isn’t it weird that if that’s the case, the statement referencing the white man wouldn’t read something like “A man with brown hair and blue eyes just knocked on my door.” I mean, there are a lot of white men in Old Trail and they all look different. Back in the real world (out of the hypo world) the fact that the person used the term “African American” as an identifier may have been completely innocent on a conscious level, but implicitly the use of race as an identifier is automatically suggestive of the person as being an “other,” – that is to say, a member of the outgroup. The practice of identifying non-white people by their race, and not doing so for white people, is basically a cultural norm, but just because it’s a norm doesn’t make it not racist. So whichever way you cut it, the e-mail is racist. Just because a person doesn’t mean to be racist, or had another purpose to her e-mail, does not make the implication or the specter of the e-mail less racist. It doesn’t make the e-mailer a bad person, just a product of our current culture.

            I really appreciated Claire Fisher’s letter to the editor. I too grew up in Crozet and live here still, and as much as I love our little area, I don’t think we’re always one that embraces diversity. Issues related to race can be incredibly complex and difficult for some to understand. Personally, I want to see our community become more diverse, and I want to hold people to a higher standard with respect to how we treat African American’s and Latinos. I want to hold our police officers to a particularly high standard. We all have a responsibility to make sure that our community is safe for all residents, not just the white ones, and that starts with recognizing both implicit and explicit race bias. Implicit bias can be as much, if not more insidious than explicit bias because it’s harder to identify and it’s easier to explain away as something else. More power to you Claire, for voicing a very real and important concern.

  6. Susan… You are clearly speaking of a completely different incident all together. Which would make sense… There was never mention of a solicitor in the email sent out and residents reported that the individual identified was licensed to solicit, and had legit business cards and literature. Like I said, there was so much offense taken by numerous people.

    • Here is the title of the email post that was written that prompted you to over react and to clearly make inappropriate conclusions as well as calling people racists:

      “Solication in Upper Ballard Field”

      We are talking about the same incident. So either you did not get your facts straight when you wrote your letter or you simply jumped to the wrong conclusions.

      • I’ll not keep going around in circles on this. I received the email directly from the people, my friends, who were hurt by it, and it’s them (and their feelings) I defend. You think they/we shouldn’t have been offended (and fearful), so be it. People were both. That’s a fact. I was there, in the midst of many, to console them.
        This argument over logistics is why our country continues to stay divided. I hope it stops one day.
        God bless and keep you. Signing off.

        • Claire,

          I know you simply do not want to hear the facts but they are what I stated. There was a post, not an email, on the Old Trail Google Group. The title of that post was what I included above “Solication in Upper Ballard Field”. So you said you “received the email directly from the people”. It was not an email, it was a post on a Google Group. If you do indeed have access to that Google group, you can go back and see it. So please do not deny that it first indicated that there was solicitation.

          It sounds to me like someone copied the body of the post without the title and sent it to you and others which is how you formulated your ill informed conclusion about racism. You and the others were obviously wrong.

          Thankfully the citizen did what they did and called the police. As a result of their initiative, there is one less person on the streets with an outstanding arrest warrant. That person should not be called a racist. Instead we should all thank that individual.

          Sadly some people want to see racism in everything nowadays and political correctness is running amok. That’s what happened here in my opinion.

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