Press Releases

State Should Train NY Employees in Anti-Bias, Inclusion Adirondack Conservationists & Diversity Experts Urge

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – With the spotlight of national attention exposing racially charged incidents at businesses such as Starbucks and LA Fitness in recent weeks, a leading environmental organization and two diversity experts are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to require all state employees and state contractors to complete racial bias and inclusion training, and to offer such sessions to the private sector’s front-line tourism service professionals as well.

The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Diversity Solutions offered to help initiate this work in the Adirondack Park.  They pointed to local racial conflict in Plattsburgh, Keene, Ticonderoga, Lake George and other communities as reasons for seeking anti-bias training.

“The Governor is a national leader on environmental issues and can be a national leader in the effort to end racial bias and mistreatment starting right here in the Adirondacks,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “This is perhaps the whitest place in New York, with more than 90 percent of the year-round population listed on the local census as Caucasian.  Yet this park depends on visitors from all over the world to support its tourism-based economy.  We have seen great enthusiasm from attendees at Adirondack Diversity Initiative meetings recently about the desire to make our towns and our businesses more welcoming to everyone.  There are very few resources available to make that happen.  The state could help bridge that gap.”

“The problems at Starbuck and LA Fitness are similar to problems we have documented at SUNY Plattsburgh, and here in the Adirondack Park involving black patrons being mistreated at the Ticonderoga Wal-Mart, and at a Lake George restaurant,” said Dr. Donathan Brown, founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, a diversity consultancy based in the Adirondack Park. “It’s time for such incidents to end.  But the only way to stop them is to formally and deliberately reinforce the ideals of equality and inclusion, so they become second-nature -- a part of daily life.

“Education can change the attitudes and behavior of those who engage in racial injustice,” said Brown.  “Together, we can make New York a more welcoming and inclusive state, though only if we lead by laudatory example.”           

"Working to create and sustain a fairer and more equitable Adirondack Park is an uphill and ongoing process,” said Ellen Bettmann, a nationally-recognized leader in the fields of anti-bias education and cultural diversity. “Bias incidents can and frequently do occur as a result of well-intentioned, insulated white cluelessness, not racial animus. That notwithstanding, the harmful impact of these events is wide-spread and real.

“Workshops can help to establish a norm in the Park of welcoming all people, even people whose culture and/or outward appearance seem different at first from the dominant cultural norm in most Adirondack communities,” Bettmann said.  “We learned our biases unconsciously when we were growing up; now we must consciously unlearn the prejudices that keep us from forming the more perfect union."

Bettmann, Brown and Janeway called upon Governor Cuomo to require all state employees and contractors to attend bi-annual, anti-bias training, to not only educate and inform, but to also underscore the state’s commitment to eradicating discrimination. 

Regionally, they called upon all business owners and not-for-profit organizations to follow suit by executing both a workplace climate survey, along with developing a diversity and inclusion strategic plan that outlines how their organization will expand the reach of its mission, broaden its talent pool, and appeal to new markets and communities.

“As a founding member of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, the Adirondack Council wants to help the Adirondack Park appeal to all New Yorkers,” Janeway explained. “The park’s future depends on the political support of all New Yorkers and on the financial support of those who want to live and vacation here.  For the park to succeed, it must be welcoming to all, and inclusive. It must be forever wild, for EVERYONE.”

In February, the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh was roiled by a student’s Snapchat post about lynching black students and by frustration from those who sought, but didn’t get, what they considered to be prompt corrective action from the state college’s administration.

In Keene, the hometown of the now-expelled student, the community was left ravaged by the event. These feelings became particularly heightened when local news outlets reported that the accused student expressed the belief that she left her small town for college thinking this kind of exchange was acceptable. 

In 2016, black summer camp employees were harassed at Wal-Mart in Ticonderoga by a white patron hurling racial epithets.  The black patrons were asked to leave. 

The same summer, other camp workers were harassed by an employee of a Lake George restaurant who used racially offensive language and ordered them to leave when they objected.  Later in the year, Aaron Mair, then president of the Sierra Club, and two non-white photographers were verbally attacked by rafters on the Schroon River near Warrensburg during a photo shoot for an article in Adirondack Life magazine.

Dr. Donathan Brown is Associate Professor and the Director of Faculty Diversity and Development for the School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College. Brown, an expert in race and public policy and a 2017 U.S. Fulbright Professor.

Adirondack Diversity Solutions (ADS) is dedicated to empowering local businesses and nonprofits with the tools and guidance needed to diversify their workforce and client base while too improving organizational climate and processes. ADS founder Dr. Donathan Brown also wrote the business plan for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI).

Ellen Bettmann served for 17 years as the National Director for Training and Resources for the Anti-Defamation League.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

For more information:
John Sheehan
518-441-1340 cell
518-432-1770 office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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