Letter: Pillow column ignites a necessary debate

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To the editor:

I believe Jacob's Pillow director Pamela Tatge showed great courage in her op-ed piece of July 11 describing an incident of racial prejudice which occurred at that organization's gala. I was startled by the opinions of the writers of two letters which appeared in the Eagle on Sunday, July 14.

A woman self-described as a white liberal expressed the opinion that The Eagle should have been "skeptical" about the reports of prejudice and said she doubted the events actually took place as Ms. Tatge described them, pointing out the "hair touching" by a couple seated behind the victim. She did not find this accusation credible. I wonder on what basis she finds these events to lack truthfulness? Her opinions seem to me to be a case of "blaming the victim."

The second letter which troubled me was written by a man objecting to piled-up hairdos which he says obstruct the views of audience members. I am guessing the most ardent Pillow attendee spends no more than six hours a week in an audience seat. Are people supposed to dismantle their hairdos for all the rest of their waking and sleeping hours? Some people choose a hairdo to express ethnic pride; others simply because they like to wear their hair a certain way. Are we to become a society where we regulate people's personal choice of hair style? If someone is seated in front of you and their hair is obstructing your view, you must find a way to resolve the situation rather than saying they cannot wear their hair as they choose. This is a personal right.

Happily, I was heartened by the writer who said the culprits in this situation should be found and reprimanded in private. Not publicly shamed but educated about their misdeeds and told this behavior is unacceptable at Jacob's Pillow.

Jacob's Pillow is a relatively small space and if Ms. Tatge were a different person, she could have kept this ugly incident secret. Bravo to her for exposing this incident and stating without a doubt that prejudice will not be condoned at this place of great beauty where presentations offer the opportunity to unify many diverse populations, something common to all the arts.

Jerri Chaplin,

Pittsfield

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