Letter: Confronting racism in the Berkshires

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To the editor:

Pamela Tatge's July 11 commentary has made public what many of us have tolerated for too long. As a member of the NAACP and the Multicultural BRIDGE Race Task Force, I am well aware of serious racial issues in schools throughout the county, workplaces and, yes, cultural venues. I am also aware of the heroic efforts to respond to those incidents and to be proactive in providing cultural competency training. Gwen Van Sant and her Multicultural BRIDGE team and Shirley Edgerton, the Pittsfield School Department's cultural proficiency coach, have been our leaders in the effort to address racism in the Berkshires.

Yes, there is racism in the Berkshires and we must first admit this if we want to make this a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

And as the song goes, "Let it begin with me." Until we all recognize that we have learned biases and hold beliefs that may not be based on facts or shared realities, we can't change. I have to admit my white privilege has afforded me opportunities and comforts that my friends of color have not had. I believe I have a responsibility to listen and learn from people of color how my words and behavior are felt. I need to appreciate the history I wasn't taught. I am fortunate to have found situations and relationships where I can soul search and grow. This can only happen when we leave our comfortable silos and spend time together.

This Saturday, the Gather In event at Willard and Rosemary Durant Park from 1-7 p. m. provides an opportunity to eat, play and enjoy each other's company. This free family-friendly event is the oldest African-American event in the county. It just might be your opportunity to make new friends and appreciate the diversity that enriches our community.

Marjorie Cohan,

Pittsfield

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