From a letter to a Not in Our Town Princeton board member:
Your commitment to wanting to see intolerance “no longer in our town” is so admirable, but I believe you place too much responsibility on yourself for feelings that were programmed early in your life (as with all of us) by parents, etc. Not easy to deal with this issue. It is not just intolerance based on color; social/educational status is such a big part of it, and that is probably why continued social avoidance of minorities seems so salient in the community. I think a move toward social inclusivity would be a step in the right direction, which you and your faith communities are doing.
But the town needs to actively invite more people of color or minorities to certain existing occasions. For example, the only African Americans I see at the Princeton Art Museum’s Thursday evening events are the security guards. Wouldn’t it be nice to solicit greater attendance through African American organizations, churches, etc.
Do you recall comments made in our group and elsewhere by African Americans who said they felt “invisible”? Well, instead of attending free activities like the Museum’s or Woodrow Wilson seminars, they tend to stay in the background, as if feeling unwanted. They must do the work of inclusion also.
I have just been reading Castaneda’s new book on Mexicans. The title is Mexico and the Mexicans, Manana? The writer complains that Mexicans were so badly beaten and victimized by Spanish, Americans, etc., over the years that they are afraid to assert and suffer so much from low self esteem. (I saw this in almost all Vietnamese, as well.) His description of their personalities and cultural behaviors seems similar to that of many African Americans, particularly those I am meeting in Princeton. It may be that there is a need to show greater support and encouragement to those who would like to become involved in more currently mostly White activities here.