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I grew up in a village on the Erie Canal east of Rochester. Everyone was white. The first Black person I met was Terry, who joined my third grade class when his family worked on a local farm during harvest season. We became friends but he didn’t stay long. Migrant workers must follow the crops. A decade later, I met a second Black person. Priscilla was my freshman roommate at SUNY Albany. We became friends, too, but grew apart after that first year. Now that I am much older, and challenged by the work of anti-racism, I wonder about them. How did they navigate the mostly white spaces where I met them? Did I fail them? How do I confront white supremacy, in all its blatant and subtle forms, today?
Anne Klaeysen is Leader Emerita of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, Ethical Humanist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University, and Humanist Spiritual Life Adviser at New York University (NYU). She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College and masters degrees in business administration from NYU and German from SUNY at Albany. Anne is board chair of The Encampment for Citizenship founded by Ethical Culture Leader Algernon Black in 1946. She is also a member of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture where she married her husband, Glenn Newman, in 1982 and where they raised their children Andrew and Emily.
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