Treat people as individuals

This letter is in reply to the opinion piece titled, “Minorities shouldn’t be lumped into one group” (March 29, 2019).

To begin, I am a fifth-generation U.S. citizen of German, Norwegian and Irish descent. I am married to a second-generation U.S. citizen of Italian and Polish descent. You can do the math on our children: they are the cultural melting pot that is America.

When I went to college and then graduate school, I learned how diversity goes way beyond skin color and ethnicity. Higher education taught me and continues to teach me many things from people of different races, creeds, religions, sexual orientation, gender identity, education level, socioeconomic status and diversity of politics.

If we all are going to live together in peace, then being open and patient with each other is the first step. Most people, including first-year college students, struggle to find the right words to engage in cultural exploration and expansion. The opinion piece published last week illustrates this.

At the beginning, the narrative mostly reads like a love letter to honor a family and a mom’s cooking. I found that narrative very sweet and I certainly appreciated the sentiment.

I was raised by a grandmother who fed me homemade pasta and bread. The author mentions gulab jamun; I empathize. I miss eating my grandmother’s lefsa.

Then the op-ed pivoted to describe first year struggles with establishing a unique identity at American University and troubles interacting with “white people.”

Perhaps these statements were not meant to be inflammatory. Considering the thesis argument, they did fall somewhere between ironic and insensitive.

Attending college expands one’s horizons, which at times causes discomfort. Learning to get along with people who are not like you and who were not raised like you is uncomfortable.

I wholeheartedly agree with the author that “we should see minority individuals for who they are: individuals.”

This logic should extend to all people. And just as the term “minorities” doesn’t necessarily unite people of color, the term “white people” fails to ethnically describe a multitude of citizens and immigrants in this country.

Just as “minorities” are not all the same, “white people” are not all the same. With my family alone, there are so many combinations of culture and history melting together that it is at times difficult to keep all these heritages alive.

Nevertheless, I was raised to embrace it all and I raise my children to embrace it all. I have always felt that the WW-P school administration stresses cultural tolerance and appreciation for differences, and that is why I love living here.

I agree with the author that ethnicity is just one facet of our identity. I appreciate and wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of the message: ethnicity should not be the determining feature of our identity.

I would restate this more broadly as the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. We all must be patient with others’ attempts to get to know us. Assume good intent, not ill will, when someone uses sloppy language to learn more about you.

Engage respectfully and directly in conversation with those who you feel are treating you unfairly. In order for tolerance and equality to exist, we all must do the work to break down the divides in our lives and see our shared humanity.

Tracy Anthony, West Windsor

 

A new Green Development Checklist for West Windsor

As a part of its concern for protecting the environment, West Windsor Township requires prospective developers to submit a Green Development Practices Checklist.

This list allows both the Community Development Department and the Planning or Zoning Board to evaluate what is being done to make a development environmentally friendly. It also encourages the developer to consider as many such options as practicable.

On behalf of the Environmental Commission, I am pleased to announce that we have an enhanced Green Development Practices Checklist that was approved on February 14, 2019.

It is the culmination of months of work by the commission and combines items from the old checklist along with newer information and documents. It is listed on the township website under Forms and Permits (westwindsornj.org/forms.html), and replaces the previous checklist dated July 16, 2010.

The checklist is not a set of regulations, but more of a buffet of environmental excellence. Applicants are encouraged to consider which actions will work well with their project.

In most cases, it would be cheaper and more efficient to incorporate these improvements at the earliest stages, rather than try to retrofit later. Many of the suggestions can lead to cost savings in energy or water or help prevent storm water problems once the project is complete. Both township professionals and the reviewing board strive to make new development as green as practical.

The improvements over the old list were two-fold:

Format: As a member of the Planning Board, I found the old format to be cumbersome, and it was difficult to evaluate qualitatively or quantitatively.

The new format is broken down by environmental area and is easier for board members to see both what and how much is being done. It is easier for applicants to fill out electronically. Although it is not meant to be a score, it is much easier to see how many items are being done.

Technical: Items that were previously considered a “stretch” have been combined with other similar category items to give a wider overall choice. Some technologies that are now more mainstream, such as solar power and electric vehicle chargers, have been emphasized, as have pedestrian and bicycle friendly paths.

Although the Green Development Checklist is primarily for developers, we hope that current residents and businesses can get some ideas for environmentally friendly improvements to current properties. I encourage your readers to check out the Township website and take a look—you never know what may inspire you!

Andrea Sue Mandel

Mandel is vice chair of the West Windsor Environmental Commission and a member of the Planning Board.