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September 25, 2006

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Bill Chaisson

Ms. Black,

I am a reporter for several community newspapers and attend village and town meetings in rural areas on a routine basis.

I have to admit to being surprised at how unfamiliar with cultural diversity some small-town officials seem to be.

In addition to your being a woman, you also may have been discriminated against by that town justice because you were obviously "not from around here". Which is to say you looked like an upper middle class urbanite who might be (gulp) an ethnic (non-Anglo) American.

Although I spent my adolescence in a Hudson Valley mill town I went on to a career in academia and was actually a professor at the University of Rochester before moving away and changing career trajectories.

I do not advertise my background when I am covering local town government. I have watched the proverbial drawbridge go up enough times.

I am not disputing that you were discriminated against because of your gender. Rather it might have been that and more.

Next time you are in the hinterlands, make note how the local professional woman act and dress. I'm sure they get done what they need to get done. Some small-town men (and women) are jerks, but most are just provincial.

As an East Coast urbanite, I was somewhat taken aback by the provincialism of Rochester when I moved there in 1991. It is, I'm afraid, all relative.

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