Friday, November 13, 2009

My Rodriguez letter to the New Paltz Times

After writing about my initial reactions to Edgar Rodriguez' racism accusations I decided to dig deeper into the matter. I wrote a letter to the New Paltz Times about the subject, which I present here as well. I know that NPT has about a billion times' the readership of the Gadfly, but there's no reason to deprive to two or three who read here and not there. (I also hope this post lasts longer than the month or so they keep their letters online.)

As a white male, I realize that I'm not permitted to have an opinion which runs contrary to a claim of racism. So, I will allow others more qualified to speak on my behalf today.

Trustee Edgar Rodriguez made such claims at a recent Board of Education meeting. It's not the first time he's felt discriminated against; Rodriguez filed a suit against SUNY New Paltz in 1984 alleging the same. In that case, Rodriguez claimed that he was denied tenure because of his race, while the court felt that SUNY was consistent in requiring Mr. Rodriguez complete his Ph.D., like others are required to do, and so found no evidence of racial bias.

At the Board of Education meeting in question, after Trustee Rodriguez left, Trustee Daniel Torres thanked the district for the many opportunities he had received as a student and pointed out that he had, earlier that day, attended the Latino Leadership Luncheon at Marist College where he is a student. Trustee Torres, himself a Latino, apparently does not feel the same racial tensions as Trustee Rodriguez.

Racism is an ugly thing that should be addressed immediately and quashed completely wherever it is found. Still uglier is making a false claim of racism to cloud the issue of the middle school's renovation, because it gives bigots ammunition for hatred and devalues the experience of real victims.

I don't doubt that Trustee Rodriguez is presently getting a frosty reception from other board members, but perhaps he should apply Occam's Razor and discard other, more likely possibilities as to why, such as his battleground mentality and dissemination of incorrect information about the project to the public. I am glad that he is willing to express a minority view, but he should check his facts if he wants to have any credibility, and he certainly shouldn't assume racism just because he's not being listened to.

My next post will be on what I learned about the Undoing Racism course.