Editorial: Fighting hatred

Hate and its symbols have no place in our community.

That’s why town officials will attend an Anti-Defamation League program next week, seeking ways to combat the many ugly faces of bigotry after five incidents of swastikas and racist graffiti — both in Ballard Park and at the high school — have been uncovered over the last year.

Unfortunately, the faces are all too familiar. There’s the anti-Semitism the Nazi swastika recalls; the racism rooted in our country’s past that keeps showing up at events like marches to defend Confederate monuments; and the anti-Muslim sentiment all too easily found these days.

Swastikas, the Anti-Defamation League says, are often “shock graffiti” reflecting not so much hatred as a desire to outrage adults. Still, it’s troubling to keep finding them — it’s a symptom of something, and shouldn’t be dismissed as harmless.   

Wealthy, mostly white Ridgefield isn’t the ideal ground from which to preach tolerance and inclusion. Long-established zoning practices and real estate prices form an exclusionary barrier, even if that’s not the intent — the goal is a safe community, good schools, a pretty town. As a practical matter, that means some people — the less affluent — are kept out.

Still, we are a nice town. Enjoying the benefits of strong zoning and high real estate values isn’t the same thing as flaunting bigotry, whether in vandalism or conversation.

Let us — pretty, imperfect Ridgefield — make our stand. Let us fight bigotry not just with meetings of leaders but at our workplaces and schools, our homes and dinner tables. Bigotry can’t be stamped out, it must be rendered irrelevant — stupid, silly even — by the drip, drip, drip of decent people leading tolerant, welcoming everyday lives, and challenging hatred whenever it dares speak.