Letter to the Rockville Centre Herald Editor (April 20-26)


We can’t remain silent on microaggressions

To the Editor:

The woman who spoke out against residential Chabads at the Rockville Centre village board meeting on April 4, and the subsequent discussions, caused divisions in our community. We aren’t taking a position on the zoning amendment that was proposed. To the woman who spoke at the meeting about it, those at the meeting who remained silent and all those who engaged on social media, the Anti-Racism Project must not and cannot remain silent in the face of the microaggressions that occurred at that meeting.

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to people based solely on their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of those targeted, demean them on a personal level, communicate that they are lesser human beings, suggest that they don’t belong with the majority, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.

The speaker only referenced one target group, Orthodox Jews. She singled out synagogues, not houses of worship. She referenced moving to Rockville Centre from her previous community, Cedarhurst, because Orthodox Jews had moved in, which, in her opinion, caused the destruction of her beloved community.

She urged us to pay close attention, because what happened there could now happen here. She said she moved to RVC because “I heard the refrain from so many people: Don’t worry, the cathedral’s there, the seat of the diocese is here. Well, the diocese building was sold, there’s now a menorah at least eight feet high on the front lawn of a home a few blocks from mine and I’m worried.”

We ask that everyone listen carefully to what was said and how it was said. We don’t know what her intentions were, and therefore will not label her as deliberately antisemitic. However, we do know what the impact of her statements were, and impact is more important than intent. Her statements were hurtful to the Jewish community, because they made Jewish people feel “othered” and unwelcomed. Her statements were a micro-insult, and the later defense of those statements by her and others were a micro-invalidation.

Intent is what you have in mind to convey. Impact is how it is received. They don’t necessarily align. Impact doesn’t necessarily reflect who you are. If a group or person tells you they were negatively impacted, it’s not an attack on your person, but on how your actions caused them harm. If a group or person tells you they were hurt, you don’t get to say they weren’t hurt (a micro-invalidation).

It is our hope that this will shed light, not heat, and spark open, constructive communication rather than the divisive attacks that have unfortunately been taking place in the aftermath of the village meeting.

Anti-Racism Project, Rockville Centre