Lopez on racism: "What is their duty?"


By Jim Poole

Cobleskill Mayor Mark Nadeau and Supervisor Tom Murray must examine their ability to lead when they decide whether to stay in office or resign over racial slurs.
That’s the belief of Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who has a unique perspective on Cobleskill’s controversy. Half Puerto Rican himself, Mr. Lopez has experienced racism from both sides.
He’s heard the demands that Mayor Nadeau and Mr. Murray resign for using the n-word, and Assemblyman Lopez understands the public’s concerns.
Ultimately, though, the decision will be driven by how the two men answer questions of themselves, not the public.
“They have to reconcile with themselves,” Assemblyman Lopez said. “What is their duty? Do they have the public’s respect and trust?”
If Mayor Nadeau and Mr. Murray believe they have that trust, they should stay, he added. If not. . .
“By lacking public trust, individuals are incapable of doing the job,” Assemblyman Lopez said. “Is that trust irreparably damaged? It’s an individual decision.”
Part of the equation, too, is a question for the public, he said:
“Can the error be forgiven?
“It boils down to the individual and the public trust.”
Although Assemblyman Lopez was stunned at the use of the n-word––“When you take that oath, there are higher expectations,” he said––but he wasn’t surprised at all that racism exists.
He knows first-hand.
During the presidential campaign two years ago, the Assemblyman was shocked to be told a racial joke about Barack Obama.
In a later second episode, an Hispanic colleague casually used the word “whities” in a conversation.
“I said, ‘Whoa, what’s with this?’ ” Assemblyman Lopez said.
“Any one of us can be a victim of racism, even a standing Assemblyman.
“Racism is persistent. In some circles, I’m not white enough. In others, I’m not Hispanic enough. Racism is visible in all cultures.”
Racism remains an underlying issue that occasionally surfaces, he said. Either way, it sometimes affects everyday life––in government and out.
“Whether in jest, whether in hatred, it exists,” Assemblyman Lopez said. “It diminishes all of us. We’ve come so far. . .and yet we haven’t.”
In Cobleskill’s case, Assemblyman Lopez hoped for a quick resolution, but he also cautioned that all involved must examine their own beliefs.
“To move forward, we have to resolve this and set it aside,” he said. “We’ll never get past this until we resolve racism within ourselves.”