We Can Do Better - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1814989

We Can Do Better

Sag Harbor, we need to do better.

As a community, we have a racial bias problem. Most of us don’t realize it, or, if so, don’t want to admit it, but nonetheless it is still present.

This was brought to light yet again last week at the Laundrette [“Bridgehampton Woman Said She Was Victim Of Racist Confrontation At Sag Harbor Launderette,” 27east.com, August 31]. As a community, we need to own that this is an issue in Sag Harbor and start taking responsibility, all of us — only then, can we make progress and heal.

The lens we each have inherently colors how we interpret events and messages. Every one of us must be aware of our biases, how to ask questions, to get all the facts, how to step into another person’s shoes, and to recognize when either intentional or unintentional bias is present in the news. What am I seeing, hearing, or reading? What is being said? What is not being said? What is implied? How do my experiences affect my interpretation?

Why was the headline not “Laundrette Owner Cited for Harassing Bridgehampton Resident”? In the article, it is stated that the owner of the Laundrette, William Tabert, admitted to being at fault for harassing Nia Dawson and her younger brother at the Sag Harbor Laundrette after they told Mr. Tabert they were social distancing and did not feel comfortable sharing a bench. He was annoyed by her response, after which he harassed, verbally assaulted, made a historically racist reference when he told her to enter around the back, and shoved Nia off balance with his shoulder (which he claims was an accident) — yet the headline plants subtle seeds of doubt in the truth of the victim’s claim.

As I read the Express article and compared it to the coverage online by patch.com or Nia’s personal account on social media, I was struck by a very different tone that was somewhat dismissive. Later, I also learned of extremely insensitive questions asked of Nia when she was interviewed for the story. Word choice and the importance of what is said and left unsaid can have a profound effect on meaning.

References were made that he may have been drunk or had problems. If Mr. Tabert had been Black or Latino, or not a business owner, would he have been afforded the same leeway?

The Suffolk County Human Rights Commission was established in 1963 to enforce various laws against discrimination. Currently, neither the towns of Southampton nor East Hampton nor the Village of Sag Harbor participate in this oversight commission.

I am asking the East End community to make it clear that all our local municipalities should join the commission. It would be a concrete and meaningful step to ensure rights are protected uniformly.

Nancy Hallock

Sag Harbor