Letter: Pillow director does institution proud
To the editor:
How can we define ourselves in this country of ours when there exists a dark well of bigotry within potentially enlightened people? It was distressing to hear of one woman of color who had to endure multiple racist comments and exchanges while at an event at a location where one would hope that such experiences would never occur. I'm referring, of course, to the interactions that occurred at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival during the 0pening of the 2019 festival (July 11 oped by Pamela Tatge, Pillow director.)
These interactions involved a woman of color whose hair was groped by a man in the theater and who then made a rude comment about "that hair." The implication of the comment was that the hair, its decorative styling, and therefore, a person of color, were unwelcome in the theater. As if this was not sufficient insult, when seated later at a table with other attendees, all white, the same woman was subjected to intrusive, racist profiling.
Such insensitivity, and by extension, such racist behavior, is beyond unacceptable. I accept that many of us of a certain age and white privilege have grown up in an America that hid its bigotry well behind facades of enlightened liberalism, or, where such behavior was acceptable in certain southern enclaves. Here in the Northeast we mostly have followed the former path, though neither is desirable, now or ever. I search my heart daily (sometimes hourly), especially in the midst of our current national atmosphere of hatred and fear. We may protest that we are without prejudice, without pockets of racism in our hearts, but we cannot fool ourselves if we allow ourselves to see those racialized behaviors of our everyday lives.
What it really takes to empty this corrupted well within us is to become sensitive to those moments when those deep and cruel moments occur, when we find ourselves using vocabularies, cliches, and profiles automatically that have traveled with us through our lives, unwittingly, unconsciously, and inspired by so very many of the subtle (and some not so subtle) cues we learned within our families, our schools and on the streets of our towns and cities.
Pamela Tatge has done a remarkable and courageous thing. She has directly confronted the bad behavior of the patrons of the Pillow. This could not have been an easy thing for her to do, since the Pillow is so very dependent on the good will of its patrons. Bravas to Ms. Tatge. The Pillow and its performers and its patrons are a diverse population, and, as she stated so succinctly, "Creating a climate of inclusiveness is fundamental." This has been so since the very beginning of the 87-year-old institution.
So thank you, Ms. Tatge, for showing us both your distress and your response to the transgression of those involved, and for sharing the event with the public and, most especially, by including in the announcement that occurs in each theater before every performance a clear declarative that emphasizes Jacob's Pillow's commitment that, not only celebrates dance, but celebrates the power of the diversity of its dancers and its community at large
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