Fighting Racism in Schuylkill County

Photo by Daniel Lobo

Amidst the massive national display of solidarity following the execution of George Floyd by police, Schuylkill County’s VISION, in collaboration with local organizations and organizers, launched a project called IDE@s (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity @ Schuylkill) in June of 2020. Their goal: to gauge local experiences with racial discrimination. This portion of the project concluded in September.

The group adopted two ways of gathering information: first a survey widely disseminated in the county and then four listening sessions, which were held in Pottsville, Tamaqua, Pine Grove, and virtually on Zoom. The results of the study have prompted a call to establish an NAACP Chapter. What follows is a brief summary of the findings as well as information on how you can get involved.

Summary of Survey Results

241 individuals responded to the online survey and reported several sources of discrimination in the county.

Reasons for discrimination included: gender 49.5%; race 16.8%; age 27.7%; weight 22.3%; and education/income level 30%.

Of the 16.8% (34 of 202 total respondents to this question) who reported race discrimination:

  • 1 in 3 (33%) report workplace discrimination, which includes: not being hired, or being fired unfairly and/or denied promotion
  • 1 in 4 (26%) report negative interactions with law enforcement, teachers, neighbors and other services (plumbing, car mechanics, etc.)
  • 1 in 5 (18%) report experiences of discrimination when moving into a new neighborhood and in accessing banking

More than 60% of those who experienced some form of discrimination reported a sense of “having to work harder for the same treatments as co-workers.” Approximately 35% of respondents experienced “public humiliation at work”; 38% were “‘exposed to racial slurs/jokes.”

Among students, almost 25% report a teacher or advisor “unfairly discouraged them from continuing education.” 21% of respondents felt that neighbors made life difficult for them and their family in a discriminatory way.

Many respondents in the survey did not feel safe in their own community. More than 50% report “watching what they say and how they say things,” being “vigilant in their surroundings,” and “avoiding certain situations and circumstances.”

Disturbingly, more than 50% of respondents said they “remained silent when a racist remark was heard.”

Responses about Racism from Listening Sessions

The following is a small sample of the remarks shared at our Town Hall Listening Sessions pertaining to racism. Please note that this summary does not reflect every comment, and many are combined to communicate a common thread. This is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ shared by courageous Schuylkill residents in a public setting.

  • Educational Discrimination (racism in our schools)
    • Schools fail to acknowledge or to make changes when informed of discrimination
      • A young girl was told her black brother should die because he’s black
      • “In High school…every day I heard the ‘n-word’ and various other hurtful jokes about race. I remember seeing those students awkwardly laugh it off each time. There didn’t seem to be a place to call it out that seemed productive.”
      • Called “dirty Mexican” by kids on the bus
    • Students of color are often discouraged from pursuing careers outside of athletics
    • Harassment of students based on faith and ethnicity
  • Professional discrimination (racism in the workplace)
    • Observed racist graffiti in the restroom
    • Discrimination by patients towards medical professionals who are not white
    • Patients discriminated against by medical professionals assuming they may not speak the language or understand
    • Professionals reported many cases where they observed discrimination against coworkers
    • Professional/college educated workers passed over for jobs in Schuylkill County.
  • Community experiences of discrimination (racism where we live):
    • Bystanders felt they lack power to make a difference, and observing racial verbal/physical attack is traumatizing to them
    • Confederate flags are hurtful to many
    • Strangers made racially insulting comments about biracial children
    • Non-white young adults have left the county, don’t want to return because of racism
    • Local Church scarred by racist graffiti on their exterior walls
      • Community came together to help repair damages
    • People react to someone of a different race as if they were dangerous

NAACP Schuylkill County Chapter

The information provided by the residents of Schuylkill County will be used by IDE@s, and organizations alike, to help address racial discrimination within our community.

An initial action item generated by the survey is the formation of an NAACP Chapter in Schuylkill County – which would be separate from VISION – that could help carry some of the weight in holding local institutions accountable for wrongful actions. For an NAACP Chapter to be established, 100 members are needed for recognition. Membership to establish a Schuylkill Chapter is specific to Schuylkill County residents. If you are not a resident, you can still help in this cause by sponsoring a resident.

Regular Annual Memberships:

  • Adults (18 & over) – $30
  • Under (17 & under) – $10

To become a member, or to provide funds to sponsor Schuylkill County resident memberships, please email

IDE@s would like to thank their community partners: Pottsville Public Library, The Islamic Society of Schuylkill County, The Martin Luther King Family Enrichment Center, SARCC, Schuylkill Indivisible, Skook Equality: Freedom to Breathe, the Interfaith Health Network, and the VISION Advisory Board.

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