The Chautauqua County Legislature has passed a motion promoting equality and denouncing racism.
Legislator Tom Nelson, who is a teacher in Frewsburg, said he was offended by an incident last October where people wore black face costumes at a Halloween party.
He said he changed lesson plans for that day to instead discuss the “painful, racist” history of black face with students, “I think it’s not just very important, but it’s our duty for this County Legislature to publicly denounce racist behaviors and state this will not be tolerated. The motion is a good start but, however, it’s not as though we just check the box and say, ‘Okay, we’ve done that and we can move on.’ This is a process, not an event. It will take time.”
Nelson said he looks forward to working with the group of pastors and community leaders who recently held a community meeting to address the issue.
One of members of that group, Reverend Chloe Smith, spoke in favor of the motion, saying she hopes it will further develop and strengthen the relationship of the African American community with the County, “But we are meant to be the blueprint of this nation, of collaboration, of being a beloved community where every single person knows that they are welcome here and has the ability to thrive. We are a county that believes in equality, justice, respect for all.”
Legislator Elisabeth Rankin said the motion gives the opportunity to take a stand, “And that we’re ready to value, celebrate, and respect every person, every individual for their background, no matter what, their life experience, and their life perspective, ’cause each person brings something different to the table. And as far as that, we take all things into consideration. It’s a great start to fight against racism and injustice.”
Legislator Susan Parker said she supports Reverend Smith’s call to work as a community, “We really do need to work together and that involves sitting down with other groups and actually talking about what needs to be done, what perspectives there are, and come towards a better Chautauqua County.”
Legislators Dave Wilfong, Tom Nelson, and Susan Parker sponsored the motion. It passed unanimously.