To The Community
My name is Claire Rich. I was a senior at Bronxville High School this past year and plan to attend Vanderbilt University in the fall.
I’m writing because Bronxville needs a wake up call. New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation. Here’s some statistics: Bronxville High School is 86% white and 0.2% black. Mount Vernon High School, which is exactly 1.3 miles away, is 79% black and 4% white. 80% of students at Mount Vernon High School are considered economically disadvantaged. Meanwhile, half of the Bronxville student body drives a white jeep and vacations in Nantucket.
From my five years living here, I’ve noticed that people in Bronxville like to act as if racism is exclusively a Southern issue. Let’s talk about that. I can name far too many boys and girls who I have heard use the n-word in casual conversation in the past week alone. To all the parents reading this - are you sure, without a doubt, that your son or daughter was not one of them?
When called out for their ignorance, those same boys and girls have said, “Who am I offending here?”, “Well, obviously I wouldn’t say it if there were any black people around” (proving that they understand it’s immoral, yet they continue to say it), and “Why can’t I say it? Freedom of speech.” These are all direct quotes.
No, it is not a few bad apples. This town is built on rotten roots. Why has all of Bronxville accepted the disparities between here and Mount Vernon so easily? Does no one question why Bronxville is 0.2% black?
Westchester has a dark history of racism perpetuated through residential segregation - in 1920, several towns in Westchester initiated zoning codes to keep out affordable housing, including Bronxville. This was an effort to go around the Supreme Court’s 1916 ruling in Buchanan V. Warley which outlawed racial zoning.
The most common defense that I’ve heard is that people of color often can’t afford to live in Bronxville or Scarsdale, some of the wealthiest towns in the nation. This is false. The fact is that our town has actively worked to limit affordable housing in order to keep out people of color. It started in 1920 and it persists to this day.
There are 15 Westchester communities with less than 2% black population. These 15 communities only set aside 1.6% of available land for affordable housing. Meanwhile, Peekskill, Tarrytown, and Mt. Vernon designated 11.7 percent of available land. The whiter the community, the less land designated to affordable housing. According to census data, even when a small amount of affordable housing is present in communities like Bronxville, it is disproportionately given to lower-income whites over middle-class people of color.
Many parents in this town claim to have never noticed any “overt racism”. That is a privilege most of Bronxville has - we can live our lives without asking the hard and uncomfortable questions.
To the parents reading this, sit your kids down and talk to them about the lasting effects of systemic racism on our community. To the kids reading this, sit your parents down and do the same.
I’m writing to urge all of you to ask the hard questions. Ask if your child understands the oppression the n-word carries. Ask yourself why our school is 0.2% black. Ask people of color how you can support them in these traumatizing times.
We are in the middle of the second coming of the civil rights movement. Now is the time to be uncomfortable. Challenge yourself and others to be the best ally you can be to people of color. Together, we can change this town and this nation for the better - but it starts at the roots.
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