By Frank Del Campo
So much is being reported in the mainstream media and on social media about systemic racism in our communities. It was demonstrated within our own Mahopac community on Flag Day, with a rally culminating at our passive park downtown.
With speeches from adults, politicians and our youth, some were suggesting that our community has a systemic racism issue, particularly in our schools.
My hope is that my response to this accusation of systemic racism will be viewed, not as an attack on the peaceful participants of this rally, but rather provide some reflection and thought of what my observations have been as a 52-year Mahopac resident.
My five children went through the Mahopac school system from elementary school through high school and have benefited both academically and socially from their experience as they raise their own children and compete every day with the rigors of the work environment. I spent a great deal of my time involved with my children and other children as a coach in Mahopac Sports Association activities. My wife and I spent many years working with the St. John the Evangelist parish community as a CCD coordinator and teacher. We worked closely with other families to form a youth organization on the church grounds as well as bringing many families to participate in the Capuchin Youth ministry.
Our efforts were focused on guiding and directing the children to a strong moral and ethical awareness for themselves and others and the importance of tolerance and respect for all, no matter race, color or creed. I even spent a year teaching at Mahopac High school, but reluctantly left to take an administrative position. In those years, the disparity in salaries between teachers and administrators were much wider, as my wife was home taking care of our children.
In the early 1980s, many of my friends and neighbors urged me to get involved in local politics as a way to expand my influence to better my community. I spent 20 years as councilman, town supervisor and deputy county executive to which I made it my priority to bring our community together in pursuing many quality-of-life issues.
From 1986 to 1995, I formed the Carmel-Mahopac Community Awareness Coalition, which sponsored many family programs on drug education, mental health and other family issues and gave all families of our Mahopac-Carmel community an opportunity to understand the value of all segments working together through awareness and communication. As supervisor, when important issues arose with differences of opinion, I and both Democratic and Republican legislators worked together in unity to avoid division and acrimony in solving many of these problems for the benefit of all our citizens.
This background is in no way to brag or enhance my ego, nor will I be seeking any political office again now or in the future. But I do feel compelled to speak out for so many of our silent members of our community who are disheartened and disturbed at the rhetoric of division recently displayed by a minority. When groups describe the Mahopac community as one filled with “systemic racism,” they are ignoring the many efforts of so many good leaders of our churches, synagogues, schools and businesses that showed respect and acceptance for all of our residents no matter their race or color.
Webster’s Dictionary defines systemic as something carried out with organized regularity. No one will deny that there are individuals who espouse negative racial views. But to suggest and insist that these views are carried out by many of our institutions in our community with organized regularity can’t be further from the truth now or in the past.
If we want to discuss racism against a few that may cause fear and discomfort, it should be viewed not as connection with one political party or another. Rather, as leaders of all those in our community, let’s examine ourselves as individuals and how we can eliminate any evidence of the few who harbor racial divide that only discredits the work of so many institutions in Mahopac.
Too much effort has been expended by so many before and after me over the years to bring our community together, and I refuse to remain silent. By remaining silent, our true condition of tolerance and acceptance of all within our community only gives validity to the loud few.
Let us come together now as our schools reopen in the fall and allow all families to know that their children and families are truly welcomed in our community. We certainly can work together with better communication to improve all that we want that is good for each other and our families now and for the future.
Mahopac resident Frank Del Campo served as a Carmel councilman, as the town’s supervisor from 1996 to 2003 and as deputy county executive in Putnam County from 2003 to 2006.