This is in reply to the letter from Kathryn Gidwitz (9/2/21 Gazette):

Absurdity, indeed.

First of all, the Chilmark camp at the Chilmark Community Center is decidedly not a bona fide camp. Otherwise, there would be far more stringent requirements for staff and supervision. (See their own disclaimer in the Chilmark Community Center catalog’s introductory pages.)

Yes, let us summarize: the report was made at the request of the town select board because issues of liability, legality and human decency arose when parents of campers were not informed about the incident for four days. In fact, some of the parents and staff were not even aware of the incident by that point. Others in the community had heard through the grapevine, which made the situation even more suspect. Chilmark is still a small town, and word travels (and gets interpreted along the way), like it or not.

The report itself was so vague as to be irresponsible, and it was made by the operators of the camp, not by a disinterested third party. It’s a classic example of “cover your ass,” which — given the involvement of the NAACP — is perhaps understandable. There have been local questions for years about inadequate supervision at the Chilmark Community Center: this year, according to one 14-year-old camp counselor’s mother, absolutely no training was provided for the new counselors (note: they’re not even called CITs), who were paid $8 per hour (according to the mother of the counselor). The majority of the counselors are dropped off at work by their parents since they are not old enough to drive.

Yes, facts: racism exists in every corner of our country, whether covert, subtle or overt. (Note: it’s not subtle when it happens to you or your child.) And eight-year-olds are certainly old enough to be aware of systemic racism and implicit bias. That is precisely the point. “Incidents like this cannot be ignored,” [MV] NAACP chapter president Arthur Hardy-Doubleday said in a statement. “This event reminds us that while the Island may have a reputation as a racial utopia, we are far from it.”

For the record, those “old gals” in Chilmark made a one-day statement. And this particular old gal — who is just five years your senior, by the way — never burned any bras. (I was nursing babies for three years during that movement and needed them; sorry, TMI.) We carried different signs: mine read, “Support the camper and his family.” While at the CCC that day, we encountered only two hostile people — one a board member, the other a parent — while several (including a young counselor) engaged in candid, open discussion with us.

Absurdity is when cowards choose to keep their heads in the sand and ignore the sad realities that even our idyllic Island must continue to address. Had, in fact, the administrators at the Chilmark Community Center dealt immediately with the incident with the children and their parents, there might have been fewer and less distressed responses. But responses are vital, regardless. We have been living a lie for over 150 years in this country — where all men (and women and children) are clearly not created equal.

Dianne (Smith) Poole