In New York, there is a perception that our state consists of New York City, a melting pot of every race and ethnicity, and Upstate, with white rural farms and fields and white middle-class suburbia. The reality, of course, is that Upstate New York has four major cities as well as many smaller ones. These cities and their surrounding suburbs are made up of diverse communities, including African American, Asian American and Latino families, as well as refugees and immigrants from all over the world.
As PPEF has sharpened its definition of fighting for racial justice to mean fighting racism at the structural and institutional levels, we have come to realize that we can best contribute to this battle by fighting for the needs of communities of color as well as the working poor and middle class in Upstate New York and on Long Island. While in New York City we continue to bring our strategy and statewide and national campaigns to existing coalitions and partners who are already lifting up race as an important issue frame, in Upstate New York, much of the dialogue is silent on the issue of race. The result is that legislators feel that they must focus on the needs of the middle class white voters who consistently vote in every election and end up ignoring the needs of communities of color, as well as the needs of poor and working class whites.
Our Racial Justice strategy must inform our civic engagement work and our issue campaign work in terms of geographic priorities, where we invest our resources, and how we choose our legislative targets and allies. We hope to build a growing voice for all low income and middle class people in Upstate New York and Long Island by making the needs of people of color in our upstate cities and in suburban communities a higher priority.