Charlie's Angle: Look in the mirror

The reaction of the Amsterdam community after a group of football fans last week chanted an ethnic slur toward its beloved football team has been interesting, to say the least.

It's been a little hypocritical, too.

For those living under a rock, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was nearing the end of its shellacking of the Rugged Rams when students began shouting out "Amsterico," a derogatory term used all over the area to describe the Rug City's significant Hispanic population.

Yes, the name has been around for years and has outlasted the careers of the ever-so-clever capitol region radio hosts who made it popular. Yes, it's become part of the regional lexicon. Yes, Amsterdam's own Latino community has even been known to use it, much like some parts of the black population have taken ownership of the "n-word."

It still doesn't make it right. In fact, it speaks a lot to the culture of this area when "Amsterico" is almost as common a phrase as "down the Walmarts" and "get a round tuit," ... and not in a good way.

As I've read and listened to the backlash after last Saturday's game, I started thinking the same thing over and over again.

Spare me your outrage.

Despite everything that's great about this city, there are times when Amsterdam is as bigoted a place as I've ever been -- and I've lived in the South.

This city's ethnic diversity is something to be celebrated, and yet it's not uncommon to hear folks treat their own community members with scorn and derision.

Using phrases like "those people" or "the Spanish." Complaining about the city's Puerto Rican population when they fly their flag with pride because some folks are too ignorant to realize that people born in Puerto Rico are just as American as people born in Palatine. Assuming everyone whose name ends in "-ez" is either dealing drugs, scamming the welfare system to buy tattoos with their EBT cards, or are here illegally. Or all of the above.

I've had people tell me Amsterdam's struggles are because of its Hispanic population. Just the other day, a woman called to complain about a billboard on the East End because it is written in Spanish. She said it was "embarrassing" to have out-of-town family and friends come for a visit and have to drive past it.

This stupidity isn't just limited to Hispanics. Remember the fear and consternation over a group of Buddhists who came into town and bought up a bunch of abandoned properties? They were subjected to more scrutiny than anyone else buying land in Amsterdam, and folks were suspicious of their motives, some even publicly saying "it's like they're taking over" -- as if having a group of Chinese people in the city is the worst thing in the world.

How dare the students of BH-BL chant "Amsterico" during a football game? How about looking in the mirror, Amsterdam?

The optimist in me chooses to believe that the bigotry in town isn't the majority opinion and mostly comes from relics of another time. It's sad, however, when people get their panties in a bunch over their football team being insulted but say nothing when that garbage gets tossed around on an almost daily basis in their own back yards.

It's like the kid who says "I can beat up my little brother, but you can't." The problem is, the little brother is still getting beat up.

The BH-BL district appears to be taking the right steps in dealing with the situation. Formal apologies have been issued, and school officials say the perpetrators of the chant will be dealt with.

There's a lesson here for the Amsterdam community as well. It stinks when people outside the city insult you, doesn't it? So don't you think there should be as much outrage when your friends and neighbors here in town do the exact same thing?

CHARLIE KRAEBEL is editor of The Recorder.

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