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Looking to make the Adirondacks more diverse, inclusive

It’s easy to sit back while reading, watching or listening to the news about racism in America and say, “That’s their problem. We don’t have racism here in the Adirondacks — only in the big cities or in the South.”

But it IS our problem. Racism is definitely here in rural New York state, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s in our communities. It’s in some of our neighbors’ homes, some of our friends’ homes, some of our family members’ homes. Hidden, subtle or overt, we’re around it every day, and that concerns us.

We’ve reported on racist graffiti in our local communities. Last summer, in a virtual series by the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and Adirondack Experience museum, we heard Black men tell stories about racial profiling while driving through the Adirondacks. We recently heard from a reader (details were off the record) about a verbal racist attack on a local Black teenager.

These incidents are all disturbing. We thought the Adirondack Mountains were shielded by racism, yet here it was, rearing its ugly head and hurting people in our own neck of the woods.

It has to stop. But how?

The only way we’ll have fewer racist incidents is through education, advocacy and more open conversations about the problem. It’s complex, and it won’t go away by just ignoring it and saying, “That’s their problem.” We need to face it head on. That’s what the Black Lives Matter protests have done, especially after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. It’s kept the problem front and center. We need to keep doing the same here in the Adirondacks.

That’s why we’re thankful to have the Adirondack Diversity Initiative as part of the Adirondack North Country Association in Saranac Lake. Through the leadership of Nicky Hylton​-Patterson, ADI is trying to build a more diverse Adirondacks. Its mission is to make the region a more welcoming and inclusive place for both residents and visitors, while ensuring a vital and sustainable Adirondack Park for future generations.

But this prejudice isn’t just about race and ethnicity. It’s also about religion, countries of origin, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities and disabilities, spoken languages and ages. The ADI stands with everyone, as do we.