Hospital is the only word one need say to enrage many people in our area these days.
Seemingly incriminating emails between politicians, accusations of corruption and bribery, even a whole congressional election seems to be reliant on this one issue. People have organized for and against putting the hospital downtown.
Both sides have said unkind and sometimes untrue things. Both side have made claims that seem unverifiable and pushed hard to have their agenda become that which steers this city.
Its actually hard to gauge how much support there is for each side. Whenever there has been a poll or other metric, one group or another does all they can to weight the results. When I have asked people on the street, their opinions have varied widely. Some think its great we are developing the area. Some think its government shoving a downtown hospital down their throats. By far the majority have said they know little or nothing about the issue, or they have no opinion.
But this is not another article about where we might put the hospital or about who said what, when and where. That has all been hashed out over and over with circular arguments all around. I am instead addressing the tone of the argument as of late.
On The Attack
The Community Foundation has recently thrown their support behind this project with the idea of helping effected businesses relocate. This is where our story really begins. This support led to a smearing of a specific persons character and even cultural heritage. It must have been a conservative on the attack right? Well, no.
In a recently published rambling editorial Cassandra Harris-Lockwood used her soapbox non-profit “news outlet” to attack the Community Foundation and its CEO for this choice. It seemed most of the complaints revolved around the Utica Phoenix’s parent company, For The Good Inc., not getting the funding they feel as if they were promised. For the record, the Community Foundation gave For The Good Inc. $16,500 in funding last year, more than many inner city people make in a year.
All that is fine I suppose. Some things I agree are a problem, and other things seem to be made up or exaggerated. Since there is no real evidence one way or the other, I guess we will never know anything that cannot be verified. The real problem came later with overtly racially charged statements.
For no reason at all Harris-Lockwood writes, “…Fernandez Dicks has dropped her maiden name, which identified her as a member of a marginalized group,…”
What did I just read? At first I was not sure. What did this have to do with anything? Until you get to the end of the article where you will read, “With or without her maiden name, Alicia Dicks will come to be known as the formerly Latina CEO of the Community Foundation…”.
What exactly does this mean? Well it means that Ms. Harris-Lockwood is referring to Ms. Dicks as a race traitor. A race traitor is a pejorative reference to a person who is perceived as supporting attitudes or positions thought to be against the interests or well-being of that person’s own race. Being in an interracial marriage herself, you would think Ms. Harris-Lockwood would be a bit more sensitive to such an issue, but I guess not. Calling other minorities race traitors has led to some of the worst hatred in the civil rights movement, and is NOT acceptable.
The Utica Phoenix, and more technically its founder and editor, Cassandra Harris-Lockwood are supposed to be the bastion of liberalism and racial sensitivity in our area, or at least that’s what many think. This is not the first time the small paper has been scandalous and bigoted in its behavior. It has instead shown a pattern of malicious conduct at worst, or extreme negligence at best. Attempting to frame police officers, failing to pay employees, writing articles disparaging all Muslims and many immigrants, the hits have just kept on coming. (I would have linked to more of her articles, but they have been removed after controversy ensued).
Maybe it is a dwindling readership, disappearing funding, or possibly a seemingly massive level of entitlement that have led to this particular lashing out, who knows. Over the years, this poorly written hate speech has all but killed the Phoenix’s credibility, and its viability. Many people literally just ignore the Phoenix now, and tell me things like “I used to read that…” or “is that still going?” Sure, some of that can be attributed to our conservative leaning area, but many prominent liberals and progressives and of course most local Muslims have turned their backs on the Phoenix, not the poor.
A Valid Debate
The fight to prevent or place a hospital in downtown Utica is a valid debate, one that needs to be had. This choice will influence our area for generations. But can we not all act like adults and debate this with respect for our opposing views? These nasty tactics are alienating people and are not becoming of those who would style themselves community leaders. There are legitimate questions and critiques on both sides, but you cannot make those points with race baiting and hate.
I personally do not think that a huge downtown project of any kind is the way to revitalize downtown. It will cost WAY to much and there seems to be better and cheaper options. I can say that and debate it with rational discourse and facts. And I can do it without calling people names or defaming them.
Implying people are race traitors is wrong. I know the No Hospital Downtown group cannot control everyone who speaks on their behalf. What they can do is condemn those who would use this type of tactic. Failing to condemn Ms. Harris-Lockwood’s article, and even aligning yourself with it is just as bad as writing it yourself.
I hope that No Hospital Downtown will denounce this article, and that any remaining advertisers in the Phoenix will stop supporting this hate blog.
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