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Onondaga County Legislators pass resolution to condemn racist act in 1795, despite contention

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

When Democratic Legislator Linda Ervin recently found out the old Onondaga County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to tax slave owners, providing further evidence of the prevalence of slavery in our area–she decided to propose a resolution of her own.

Her resolution would condemn the previous one which dates back to 1795. However, on Monday night when she asked to have it added to Tuesday’s agenda, she was told it was too short of notice.

“I replied that I have been on there long enough to know that we, we get resolutions the day of the session, not just the day before, and they and they are added to the agenda and voted on,” said Ervin.

Some of her peers also took issue with some of the language in the resolution, eliminating words like “systemic” from its text.

“They the thought was that I would accept those procedural kinds of comments, and then I would back off on it,” she said. “But that wasn't happening.”

So, Ervin decided to introduce it during Tuesday’s session with the help of some of her peers.

“And since, you know, this is Black History Month, this was an appropriate time for me to try to do it,” she said.

The resolution did pass, but not without pushback from a few legislators across the aisle.

Jim Rowley, who was conducting his first full session as the legislature’s new Chairman, said he felt this resolution wasn’t necessarily “celebrating” Black History Month.

But Ervin says part of that celebration is recognizing our past.

“I guess if you're a caucasian person who has nothing better to do than to tell us what to do about things, then you think that the celebration should be joyous and happy and look at pat ourselves on the back and look at what we've done,” she said.

Ervin says the best way to celebrate Black History Month is to recognize the history and presence of racism in our community.

“We have to talk about racism, we can't just ignore it, it does exist,” she said. “And we have to deal with it and try to and try to make certain that it doesn't prevail.”

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.