Racism Is Alive & Well In Westchester

When we say, “Black Lives Matter,” they say, “All Lives Matter.” When we put up signs that say All Lives Can’t Matter Until Blacks Lives Matter in Greenburgh, they rip the sign out the ground less than 24 hours later. The county of Westchester is one of the nation’s wealthiest communities, and one of the most racially polarized. It’s been highly documented that ALL LIVES DO NOT MATTER in Westchester! It’s not enough to call out acts of racism elsewhere like the January 6th Insurrection at the Capitol and not speak up against racism in your own backyard or even acknowledge that there is racism – systemic or blatant – bigotry, white supremacists declaring war on democracy, antisemitism, xenophobia, sexism and white privilege right here in Westchester. They do not like to discuss it, claim racism doesn’t exist here, but until we face the fact that racism is alive and well in Westchester County, we cannot conquer racism. So, it’s time for some REAL TALK!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” so began Thomas Jefferson’s famous words from the body of The Declaration of Independence of 1776. But when We The People of a darker shade – when those who do not fit the model of whiteness – dare to and have the audacity to believe these words – that are the bedrock of this country – we often receive a wakeup call, a swift kick in the gut, that these words do not and were never meant to apply to us.

Let’s first start with exactly what is racism? “People often define racism as disliking or mistreating others on the basis of race. That definition is wrong,” says Steven O. Roberts, an assistant professor who directs the Social Concepts Lab in the psychology department at Stanford University. “Racism is a system of advantage based on race. It is a hierarchy. It is a pandemic. Racism is so deeply embedded within US minds and US society that it is virtually impossible to escape. Just as citizens of capitalistic societies reinforce capitalism, whether they identify as capitalist or not, and whether they want to or not, citizens of racist societies reinforce racism, whether they identify as racist or not, and whether they want to or not.”

Now that we got that out the way, let’s face it, racism is alive and well in Westchester County. One of the most recent examples of racism took place just week at Iona Prep. But first I want to discuss election night in Yorktown, a town on the northern border of Westchester.

Yorktown GOP District Leader Tom Pomposello was caught on video at a Yorktown GOP celebration on Election Night saying That motherf****r. That f****r sand n****r, in reference to Yorktown Councilman Vishnu Patel, who was defeated for re-election, Tuesday, November 2. The racial slur ‘sand n*****r’ targets people from the Middle East. Patel, who has served on the town board since 2010 is Indian-American and one of the few Asian-Americans in elected office in Westchester County.

The Yorktown Town Board said in a statement that it has a zero-tolerance approach to racism and hate in their community. The Westchester County Board of Legislators made a valid point in their joint statement that the problem is that he was able to make such a harmful statement in a room full of local Republicans with impunity from those who attended the event. The video was even posted on the Yorktown Town Republican Committee Facebook page containing profanity and racist language. In fact, according to the Yorktown Town Board statement the video was posted until Brian Marschhauser from the Yorktown News alerted them that Pomposello could be heard in the background using profanity and racist slurs against Councilman Vishnu Patel during Republican candidates for Town Board giving speeches thanking their supporters.

“While the condemnation of Pomposello’s statement by the Yorktown Town Republican Committee, and Pomposello’s resignation, is appropriate, the video of Pomposello uttering such a slur in a crowded room full of community leaders with such comfort and with no apparent condemnation in the moment, is disturbing. It is not enough to tolerate silently racism in our midst, nor to act against it only when it becomes a public relations problem, nor merely to apologize for uttering aloud what is in our hearts after the destructive work of one’s words is done. We must actively confront hatred wherever and whenever we encounter it, in the moment, until it is eradicated from the heart of our nation, and before it grows into something even more destructive than words.”

Sandy Bernabei, LCSW of the Anti-Racism Alliance of Westchester says it’s more important for Westchester County to focus on undoing racism than a focus on bigoted white people.

“This about hate and bigotry. The white man engaged in derogatory name calling was counting on his white unearned male privilege to work for him, believing others join him in feeling relieved that a man of color lost his bid for re-election,” Bernabei shares with BW. “Another version of this happened in the 2020 election. A refusal to accept that one’s privilege didn’t work this time and so rather than act like adults these men pout and cry “foul play” to others who also believe that white unearned male privilege must prevail. White resentment is the new rallying cry during the last gasp of White supremacy.”

Yorktown for Justice (YFJ) also denounces the racist remarks and called for formal policy measures to address systemic racism and other forms of bigotry in Yorktown.

“This incident is the latest in which the Yorktown GOP has come under fire for scandals, and racist and prejudiced acts including xenophobic, anti-semitic and racist GOP mailers in 2017. Yorktown Republicans, including Town Supervisor Matt Slater, have condemned Pomposello’s words, who has since resigned as district leader. Despite issuing statements denouncing racism, the town of Yorktown has not supported anti-discrimination programs, policies or educational measures;” Yorktown for Justice (YFJ) shared.

When confronted with hateful language, African-Americans and those who the hate is aimed at are expected to respond to the hate by maintaining their composure. This county, like this country has a history of the expectation of victim not making the offender feel uncomfortable by confronting and exposing them. Often the victim is further victimized when they speak up. They prefer to Whitewash history like this country wasn’t built on systemic racism.

But despite what are leaders, elected officials and the mainstream media tell us the fact that racism exists does not surprise many residents of color in Westchester and the Hudson Valley who have to deal with its repercussions every day. But without active and ongoing efforts to understand and dismantle racism, it will continue to ambush people and flagrantly terrorize all of us while putting the American dream further from our collective grasps.

Many criticize Black Westchester for creating this racist narrative but let me show you it not just Black Westchester recording that racism does in fact exist is Westchester. Publications like the NY Times, Newsweek, New York Daily News, NY Posts, CBS New York, MSN, The Grio, Dallas Black News, NBCNewYork, Eyewitness News 7, IsrealNationalNews.com, HuffPost News, Spectrum News1 and local media outlets like Lohud, News 12 Westchester, Fios1 News, the Yonkers Times, Daily Voice, The Patch, The Pelham Examiner, The Village Free Press, Black Westchester and others highly publicized racism in Westchester, yet there are those in power that want you to think it doesn’t exist. Don’t take my word for it, allow me to share a few headlines from the just last two years, and you are free to read them for yourself.

Iona Prep Student Depart, Students Protest Racial Charged Remark [MSN, The Grio, News 12, Dallas Black News – Nov 2021], Ursuline, An All-Girl Catholic School Expells Student For Racist Slurs Against Asians and African-Americans [Lohud, NBCNewYork & NY Daily News – November 2021], A destroyed Greenburgh Black Lives Matter sign becomes a reminder of racist violence [Lohud – Nov 2021], Swastika graffiti found on popular playground in Ossining [Israel Nation News, Examiner News – August 2021], Many Are Asking, Do Black Lives Matter In Greenburgh After BLM Sign Is Illegally Ripped Out The Ground [Black Westchester – May 2021], Police Brutality, Systemic Racism Continues In Westchester [Lohud – May 2021], Roads to inequality: How white supremacy was built into New York’s pathways [Lohud – April 2021] Messages of hate found on stickers around Westchester County [Eyewitness News ABC7 – Jan 2021], N—— Lives Don’t Matter Written On Street In Front Of Ossining High School & Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg’s House [Black Westchester – October 2020], Dobbs Ferry police investigate inflammatory T-shirts left for families of color [Lohud, Newsweek, NBCNewYork, NY Post – Sept. 2020], How Trump Is Using Westchester to Stir Up Suburban Fears [NY Times – Sept. 2020], Blue Noose Painted on Street Outside Black Family’s Home in Westchester County [NBCNewYork, ABC 7 New York, News 12– August 2020], Love thy neighbor and mean it: New Castle condemns anti-Semitism, racism in Chappaqua [Lohud – August 2020] The Iona Prep 4: Four Iona Prep Students Speak Up On Racism And Discrimination They Faced In School, [Black Westchester, June 2020], Phelps Hospital Northwell Health in Tarrytown staff remembers the lives lost to racism and discrimination [News 12 – June 2020], A racist rant by Monticello DPW Supervisor Raymond Jones is under scrutiny after the official is caught on video calling an employee the N-word. [News 12, Spectrum News 1, Daily Voice – May 2020] are just a few examples that a quick google search of racism in Westchester produced.

Black Westchester has also covered many stories about local law enforcement posting racist comments or sharing racist emails, Greenburgh Cop who posted racist Facebook comment during the Baltimore unrest (May 2015), The Pelham Manor Racist Email Scandal Spreads to Eastchester (Feb. 2015), Mainstream Media Mum About White Westchester Officers Invidious Facebook Comments About BLM (August 2016), Westchester County Correction Officer Suspended For Racist Facebook Post (Sept. 2016), WCPR Calls For Immediate Suspension Of White Mt Vernon Cop For Racist Facebook Post About BLM (Sept, 2016).

Further proof of the systematic racism that exists in Westchester Law Enforcement during all of the Police/Community relations forums from Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Yonkers, White Plains, Greenburgh to Peekskill every police chief and commissioner we spoke to maintained that there is no racism in their departments. We have covered that once or twice as well; Is There Racial Bias In How Whites And Blacks Are Arrested By The MVPD (August 2015). Then there is the role racism places in Montiefore’s attempt to gut and shut down Mount Vernon’s only hospital. We covered that in our series Racism By Zip Code. Lohud ran an opinion piece titled, Hate Crimes Are Unacceptable In Westchester. Let’s Stay Vigilant, June 29, 2020. Like I said despite those that would have you believe racism does not exist here, it has been highly documented.

The effect of race and its impact on society is undeniable. Systemic and unjust practices make the bulk of American history, so it should be no surprise it exists in Westchester. From Asian immigration quotas to harmful rhetoric against the Latinx community and the disproportionate murders of Black Americans by law enforcement—it is important to acknowledge the fact that racism is alive and well in Westchester today. While we act like it doesn’t exist, it’s obvious the ALL LIVES DO NOT MATTER IN WESTCHESTER!!! And that’s REAL TALK!!!

  • Systematic Racism will always exist nationwide!! I have attended many workshops From Anti Racism to Undoing Racism. Courstesy of Sandy Bernabei, LCSW.
    The next day it was so blatantly exposed at one of the many organizations I am a member of. Be careful who you allow in your political circle. They are the systemic distraction to keep us oppressed and indecisive my Brothers and Sisters

    Who is actually going to rewrite or add an addendum to the Constitution which was not written for us. To include us, Black/Latinos/Indigenous People.

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