“Dear Mr. Prejudice:” An Open Letter
YW Boston is fortunate to have an extensive collection of archive materials from our 150 year history, housed at the Radcliffe Library at Harvard University. Our recent visits to these archives have unearthed wonderful photos, documents, and artifacts that tell us the story of the generations of Boston women that have been part of the YW and its mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
One such woman was Carolyn Bossi.
Born in Boston in 1935, Carolyn attended Roslindale and Latin High Schools. Carolyn was Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook, was active in volunteering, and was part of the Boston YWCA’s Y-Teen Sky Club, which began in 1946 as “an afterschool program in which teenage girls could partake of a wide array of activities, ranging from recreational outings, to career exploration at local businesses, to planning fundraisers for postwar reconstruction in Europe” (Foley, 2010).
As a member of Y-Teen, Carolyn authored the following open letter, “Dear Mr. Prejudice:” published in YWCA Magazine in February 1953.
Carolyn’s words ring as true today as they did over 60 years ago – especially in the face of increasingly bigoted rhetoric from political candidates, seemingly endless acts of mass violence, and the widening inequality in our nation.
Not only did Carolyn make her voice heard against prejudice and hate, but she went on to live a life that embodied the value of dignity for all. She graduated from Colby College, Keen State College, and The College of New Jersey, earning both a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Counseling. She devoted her professional career to “making a positive difference to the lives of women and young teens suffering from addictions,” and worked for many years in the Toms River School System. Her dedicated to women’s causes continued after YWCA Boston, and she was awarded the Women Helping Other Woman International Soroptomists Award in 2000 and 2011. She raised a family of four children with her husband Ronald Hadge, and at her death in 2011 was survived by six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. (The Concord Journal, 2011)
Let’s look back at women like Carolyn and renew our resolve not lose the strength of our convictions to age, to other concerns, or to perceived powerlessness in the situation. We all have a right and responsibility to speak up, in whatever way we can, to whoever will listen.
Full text of Carolyn’s letter:
An Open Letter from a Y-Teen
Dear Mr. Prejudice:
I hate you. Right now I hate you more than anything else. Perhaps it’s because I’m young and you haven’t yet had much of a chance to twist my mind to your liking. But I know you; I’ve felt you; I’ve seen you at your game. You disrupt homes, families, marriages, and friendships. You don’t strike directly. Instead, you put the knife of words in someone’s mouth and let him fling it. The wound is deep; it’s incurable. Once struck by one of your secret weapons a person unknowingly becomes your ally and in turn hates the other man. Thus you grow.
You’re the king on the throne of racial and religious enmities. Because of you we snub, we discredit, we shun those who aren’t “our own kind.” We use you for excuses. Then people try to fight you with flower phrases saying, “We’re Americans! We’re all equal!” These statements are fine; but they are not true. You turn us against our friends. You make us see their faults, their weaknesses, but all of us have our own faults. That’s not, however, a part of your creed.
You are old. You’ve been roaming the world ever since man noticed his neighbor had a different color or a different religion. You have never stayed with the same party. You run to the group in power and help Mr. Big crush the Little Man. You don’t care who, what, or (…) you’re hurting, so long as you have your own arrogant way. Am I also destined to dwell in this society of contempt?
I’ll give you credit: you’re crafty. You don’t come out in the open and fight with flaming colors. No you crawl in by the back way and claim your victims. You develop an ever-growing cloud of tension among groups. The man who can overlook you is strong; the weak man your bosom pal. I just want you to know one thing. God made us, every one of us, and that way alone we are equal. Our appearances, your beliefs, our heritages may be different, but we all turn to our Creator in our time. Maybe someday we will be Americans in the true sense of the word, but until then I pray to God that He will give us what it takes to hold our own against you!