Westchester County Executive Accused of Neglecting Black and Brown Children Amidst Racial Inequities and Homelessness Crisis


Sandy Bernabei, a representative from The AntiRacist Alliance, has openly criticized Westchester County Executive George Latimer for his apparent lack of action in addressing the dire conditions faced by Black and Brown children in the county. In a recent statement, Bernabei accused Latimer of turning a deaf ear to the evident racial inequities and high rates of homelessness among these children throughout his two terms in office.

Sandy stressed that when Latimer was first elected as County Executive, he was provided with all the necessary information to address the issues. Despite this, two terms later, he has failed to meet expectations. She also clarified that based on his promises, she believed he would advocate for the disadvantaged, but instead, he represented the interests of the white privileged.

She emphasized that community leaders had met with Latimer for over a year to discuss social issues, particularly police reform. During these meetings, the leaders provided Latimer with information and reports on how to improve relations between the police and the community. However, she said that Latimer took no action based on their input. “He disrespected us,” she stated, adding that “he disrespected the Black men in the room.”

“You cannot claim to be the friend of Black people when you have refused to help Black children,” Bernabei stated, highlighting the gravity of the situation and the perceived inaction of the County Executive.

The criticism also comes as Westchester County plans to expand the Woodfield Cottage Youth Detention Facility. This multi-million dollar project has drawn opposition from advocates who argue that the focus should be on alternatives to incarceration and addressing the root causes of the issues faced by Black and Brown youth.

Data reveals stark disparities experienced by these children in Westchester County. Despite making up only 14% of the child population, Black children account for 41% of public school suspensions, 56% of kids in the foster care system, and 62% of juvenile detentions. Moreover, Black infants have a mortality rate four times higher than white infants, and Black children are five times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma.

Homelessness is another pressing issue disproportionately affecting the Black community in the county. Nearly 7 out of 10 people considered homeless by the US Department of Housing & Urban Development are Black, even though only 1.5 out of 10 people living in Westchester are Black.

Advocates argue that expanding the youth detention facility without exploring alternatives to incarceration could be seen as a race-based human rights violation. They point to the racial breakdown of youth served at Woodfield in 2022, which shows a disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic youth compared to their Caucasian counterparts.

Furthermore, critics of the expansion plan argue that there is no publicly available data to support the need for increased detention capacity. The average monthly census for the five counties served by Woodfield remains below 20 youth, and an additional non-secure detention space at Children’s Village is nearly empty.

Instead of investing millions in expanding youth detention, advocates urge county officials to consider repurposing the facility and reinvesting the cost savings into community-based alternatives. They believe involving parents of impacted youth and representatives from the five counties in the planning process is crucial to developing a more effective and equitable approach to juvenile justice.

As Westchester County faces these challenges, it is crucial for its leadership, particularly County Executive George Latimer, to prioritize the well-being of Black and Brown children and take concrete steps to address the systemic inequities that have persisted for far too long. Failure to do so may continue to draw criticism and accusations of neglect from advocates fighting for the rights and welfare of these vulnerable children.

DAMON K JONEShttps://damonkjones.com
A multifaceted personality, Damon is an activist, author, and the force behind Black Westchester Magazine, a notable Black-owned newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. With a wide array of expertise, he wears many hats, including that of a Spiritual Life Coach, Couples and Family Therapy Coach, and Holistic Health Practitioner. He is well-versed in Mental Health First Aid, Dietary and Nutritional Counseling, and has significant insights as a Vegan and Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Not just limited to the world of holistic health and activism, Damon brings with him a rich 32-year experience as a Law Enforcement Practitioner and stands as the New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

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