Panel explains how to be ‘anti-racist’

June, 2020

SARANAC LAKE — In the first of a series of anti-racism “listen-in” livestreams Monday, a panel of black activist-scholars talked about what it means to be “anti-racist.”

The sessions are hosted by the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and Adirondack North Country Association, and led by ADI Director Nicky Hylton-Patterson.

The purpose is so white allies in the Adirondacks can learn to be better equipped to fight racism in their communities — and more importantly, Hylton-Patterson said, systemic racism.

Michelle Cromwell, the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh, said it is not good enough to just be non-racist.

“If you’re going to be anti-racist, you have to be anti-, which means you have to act,” she said.

Hylton-Patterson defined anti-racism as “identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems of power, policies, practices and attitudes to redistribute power so it is shared equally.”

“I know that most Americans do not like to hear about redistribution of anything,” Hylton-Patterson said with a laugh, “but you can’t talk about systemic racism without talking about capitalism, neo-liberal capitalism.”

Clifton Harcum, the diversity officer in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at SUNY Potsdam, said American society and industry was built on the back of slavery and systemic racism. He said for the majority of America’s history, black people were not considered whole people. He said it started in 1619, when some of the first black people came to America as slaves, as property. They faced centuries of enslavement, hate and segregation, but have overcome many injustices, too.

“We’ve accomplished many things in this country that have changed the course of the world, but just because of this,” Harcum said, holding up his black hand up to his camera, “we are considered ‘less than.'”

Read the full article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise