Social media posts about T-shirts left outside the homes of families of color this week triggered a police department investigation, reports to the Westchester County Human Rights Commission, a fundraiser to counter the shirt’s message, and a protest planned for this weekend.
The words “Welcome to Dobbs Ferry” are printed on the front of the shirt in question. On the back is the headline “Please Respect It!” and the statement: “You came from there because you didn’t like there. And now you want to change here to be like there. We are not racist, phobic, or anti whatever-you-are. We simply like here the way it is and many of us were actually born here and stayed because it is not like there. Wherever there was. You are welcome here with open arms! But, please stop trying to make here like there. If you want here to be like there, you should not have left there to come here. Please love Dobbs Ferry as we do and please do your best to leave it just as you found it.”
Earlier this week, a photo of a shirt circulated on social media along with the message “This T-shirt was left in my parents’ driveway. Apparently they’re being given out to ‘all’ the neighbors. You know that doesn’t include white people.”
Kelli Scott, an activist from Irvington, told the Enterprise on Sept. 9 that she knows of three Dobbs Ferry families who found the shirts outside their homes. In response, there will be rally this Sunday, Sept. 13, at 3 p.m., at Waterfront Park in Dobbs Ferry.
On Sept. 7, the Dobbs Ferry Democratic Committee posted a statement about the T-shirt on their Facebook page. That statement read, in part: “The message in this T-shirt is clear — ‘you’ are only welcome here if ‘you’ assimilate to be like ‘us.’ But the ‘us’ is who exactly? Dobbs Ferry is not one group, one culture, one religion, or one race — it is full of people from many different backgrounds who have all come together to live in a small village on the Hudson River.”
That statement continued, “The DFDC strongly condemns any targeting of newcomers to our village and members of our community in a way intended to sow division and make them feel unwelcome. We therefore find this T-shirt to be un-American and contrary to the spirit which makes our village so wonderful.”
In a Village of Dobbs Ferry email blast on Sept. 8, Mayor Vincent Rossillo wrote that he directed the police chief to investigate the situation. On Sept. 9, Chief Rick Guevara told the Enterprise that his department had not verified whether the post about the shirt left in a driveway was true, or whether additional shirts were placed elsewhere. He urged members of the public with information to call police at (914) 693-5500.
“We will not tolerate any effort to undermine anyone’s well-being and safety,” Rossillo told the Enterprise on Sept. 8. “I’m not on social media, but I understand that a lot of hateful and hurtful things are being said. I urge everyone to stop posting comments online; we should instead take the time to reflect on the strength that comes from a unified community.”
A countervailing T-shirt is being sold online through Black at Dobbs, a student-run Instagram account described as “a safe space for current, former, and graduated Black (& other POC) Students of DFSD to anonymously share their stories.” Profits from the sale of the $20 shirt will benefit Call Blackline, a 24/7 hotline for people of color to receive counseling and peer support, and to report mistreatment.
The message on the back of the Black at Dobbs shirt reads: “We Respect You! There is much to love about it here in Dobbs, but we also know that there is still lots of work to be done to make it a better, more equitable, and more accepting community for all. We strive to make Dobbs a community that is constantly progressing and will not tolerate hate. Some of us were born here and some of us weren’t, and regardless, we welcome everyone from here, there, and everywhere else! Please love Dobbs Ferry as we do and please do your best to make it infinitely better than you found it.”