The recent defacement of the statue of baseball players Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, outside of MCU Park on Coney Island, is especially disturbing ["Robinson-Reese statue defaced," News, Aug. 8]. The racial epithets, swastikas and "Heil Hitler" are a sad and startling reminders of how far we have to go to achieve a truly civil society.

The statue depicts a moment in 1947 when Reese walked out on a ballfield and placed his arm around Robinson -- the first black player in the major leagues -- when Robinson was being heckled.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Although police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, some others have referred to the incident as simply immature. That is a cop-out.

We do not like to consider how deep the roots of hate may be within us. It makes us uncomfortable. To paraphrase the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical "South Pacific," we are not born hating; it is something we learn.

We must all challenge ourselves to be the teachers who do not pass along hate in its many forms to future generations of American citizens.

Victor Caliman, South Huntington