A lawn sign stating “Black Lives Matter” was defaced last month outside the home of an interracial family in Dobbs Ferry. Between Saturday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 13, the word “Black” was covered with the word “All” printed on a strip of white paper.
The sign had been in place since the summer, alongside a Dobbs Ferry PTSA Diversity Committee rainbow-colored sign proclaiming “You belong here/Unity.” Though neighbors displayed the same signs, those remained untouched.
The family whose sign was vandalized has lived in Dobbs Ferry for six years; their children attend Springhurst Elementary School.
On Dec. 14, the Diversity Committee, headed by president Brooke Bass, posted a statement about the incident on Facebook, along with a photo of the signs. The post read, in part, “We are sharing this image as a reminder that there is a cohort of our neighbors that think this rhetoric is okay and will go unchecked. If you have a neighbor who is offended by Black Lives Matter, now is the time to have a heart to heart. Our children are seeing this and families are affected by these shameful acts.”
On Dec. 16, Dobbs Ferry Mayor Vincent Rossillo sent out an email blast on behalf of the board of trustees and its newly formed Human Rights and Diversity Committee, condemning the vandalism and clarifying why “All Lives Matter” is a racist response to the declaration “Black Lives Matter,” rather than the expression of equality.
“These words do not mean ‘Only Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Black Lives Matter More Than Others,’” the statement read, and explained that the words mean “Black Lives Matter, Too.”
“Until Black lives really do matter equally, cancelling that message only perpetuates the open and hidden racism in our midst,” the statement continued. “Replacing it with ‘All Lives Matter’ covers up the inequality that plagues us and stalls the necessary conversations we need to fix within our village and our nation. In a nation that professes equality, Black Americans' lives have, tragically, never mattered as much as white Americans' lives.”
The mayor and trustees formed the 14-member committee to work with village officials and residents on matters related to inclusion, human rights, diversity, and equity.
Schools Superintendent Lisa Brady also sent out an email blast about the incident, asserting, “Make no mistake — this is a racist response and a racist act. There are many of us who are weary of these kinds of actions but we will not be deterred.”
As part of the school board’s five work sessions on Race and Equity, open to all members of the community, the Dec. 15 session on race and identity included four New York Times short films featuring conversations with Black women, Asians, Latinos, and Whites. The school district’s Facebook page describes the work sessions as “a learning experience for all participants and an opportunity to explore challenging conversations together as a school community.”
Brady told the Enterprise that the first two sessions attracted more participants than any other work session before, and described them as “an encouraging and powerful experience,” asking rhetorically, “What comes out of any learning experience except reflection and consideration of new ideas?”
On Dec. 16, the school district’s Race Matters Committee held its first meeting. That group comprises 20 students and 25 staff, parents, and community members who will review district policies and practices, and make recommendations to the school board in the spring.
Brady affirmed that the school district refuses to look the other way about racism. “We do not want our children, our families, and our neighbors exposed to this kind of despicable action designed to threaten and undermine our efforts toward creating a more inclusive and welcoming community,” her email blast continued.
This past September, T-shirts bearing a xenophobic statement were left outside the homes of three families of color in Dobbs Ferry. At a Sept. 13 rally at Waterfront Park, the rally’s three organizers, two pastors, and a pediatrician underscored their message by tearing apart one of the T-shirts.
In her email blast, Brady seemed to speak for the larger community when she stated, “…clearly we have work to do. And for the record — Black Lives Matter.”