Addressing racism on Long Island


In Spike Lee’s masterful “BlackkKlansman,” based on the memoir by Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs’ first African-American police officer and undercover detective, we see racism in its most ugly form — the desire by Ku Klux Klan members to maim and kill for no reason other than that someone is black or Jewish.

This was not the United States of the 19th century. This was the U.S. of the 1970s, in the post-civil rights era.

Lee ties the film’s “crazy, outrageous, incredible true story” to the insidious, at times incendiary racism that persists in our nation today — which took a deadly turn in 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., when a white nationalist rammed his car into a group of protesters who were decrying the hate espoused by a band of chanting, torch-carrying neo-Nazis, killing Heather Heyer.

Lee is unflinching in showing all of the footage of that vicious attack, as well he should be. As a nation, we must face — and address — the racism that continues even to this day.

ERASE Racism, the Syosset-based nonprofit, recently did that with a series of five panel discussions at locations across Long Island, which were intended to educate the public about the hate that is dividing the nation and to spark a larger, ongoing conversation about institutional racism on the Island.

It’s about time that we had such a discussion. Long Island is among the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country. Majority African-American/Hispanic school districts have significantly fewer educational resources than majority white districts. That, in large part, explains why such districts tend to have lower graduation and college acceptance rates.

In the mid-20th century, African-Americans were barred, by covenant, from buying homes in Levittown. When they did purchase houses in communities like Roosevelt, white residents moved out in droves.

Today, school districts like Hempstead remain persistently under-resourced, in no small measure because of our policy of funding them largely through local property taxes. Poorer districts thus have significantly less money to spend on education.

There are only two solutions: One, the state could increase aid to underfunded districts. Two, districts could consolidate. We should be discussing both. It’s good to see ERASE Racism starting the conversation.