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Home From the Editor To the Editor: Larchmont and White Privilege

To the Editor: Larchmont and White Privilege

It is the policy of theLoop to accept Letters to the Editor from all readers without regard to opinion, politics or observations.

To the Editor:

A letter to white residents of Larchmont

I haven’t spent more than a few weeks at home in three years. Then the pandemic struck. I was furloughed from my job in Alta, Utah and denied unemployment insurance. I didn’t receive a stimulus check because I was claimed as a dependent last year. But it’s fine. I don’t have any expenses. I don’t have student debt and I’m still on my parents’ health insurance. I would be screwed if I was your average American, homeless and unemployed with only $500 in their pocket. But I’m not because I grew up in Larchmont.

I think we can all connect with feeling grateful to have places like Manor Park to help us cope with feelings of grief and uncertainty. Every day, I listen to NPR while I soak in the suburban wilderness. My peaceful morning walks have been a source of solace. Then, George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer. I was on the corner of Larchmont Avenue and Cherry Avenue when George Floyd’s plea for his life pierced my ear drums. The man charged with murder knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while George Floyd begged for his life. The peace of my morning walks is no longer comforting. It is a disturbing reminder of the whiteness of the community that made me who I am today.

Mamaroneck School District is being sued for “pervasive racism”. I am not surprised. The opening sentence of a June 1st Loop article covering the lawsuit reads, “The racial unrest dividing the nation has not spared the Mamaroneck School District.” In what alternate reality would we be spared? This is not politics, it is data. It is the lived experience of Larchmont residents like me who are just fine even when everything goes wrong. It is the tranquility of Manor Park while cities are under curfew and on fire. A tacit agreement of willful ignorance dominates this predominately liberal, white and wealthy community.

Children from Central School, Chatsworth Avenue, Mamaroneck Avenue, and Murray Avenue elementary schools matriculate into Hommocks Middle School in sixth grade. I went to all girl’s Catholic school in Greenwich, Connecticut for a year. It was 2008. We had a mock election. John McCain won. Many of my classmates asked me how I could vote for Obama when he would “take all of my parents’ money away.” When I returned to Hommocks for seventh grade, I was relieved to be in a less homogenous place where my peers didn’t make fun of me for supporting Barack Obama. Still, even in a place where the other kids’ parents voted like mine did, whiteness percolated in classrooms and hallways. Even with a black president.

The history curriculum at Mamaroneck High School is progressive compared to others throughout the United States. But the same white boys singing the n-word at parties were the same ones making discussing America’s “broken” past in Advanced Placement US History. The broad scope of the peers I went to parties with during high school had gone to either Chatsworth or Murray Avenue. The name of a GroupMe with about forty members of MHS Class of 2015 remains “don’t call the cops”. The only reason someone would imagine calling the cops was for help if someone had alcohol poisoning. All of us drank underage and some of us got caught. The biggest consequences we could imagine were rescinded college applications or the wrath of our coaches. People feared for their reputations and resumés, not their lives.

That’s because the average income in Larchmont is $313,568. According to Census data, 90% of residents are white. I’m sure many residents work very hard to earn that money. But those earnings are enabled by a system that accrued wealth from zero-cost enslaved labor. The only expense, of course, was and continues to be black lives.

When I settled in at Tufts, I was immediately exposed to the narratives of privilege. I quickly learned to make jokes about being from the lame suburbs when people asked me where I was from; to show them that I knew they knew. I started to confront where and what I came from and it made me deeply uncomfortable. This discomfort translated into anger and resentment; it made me want to run even further away. I felt powerless and confused. But I’m not running anymore.

Avoidance and escapism enable white supremacy to continue. We must confront what we are in denial about, the awareness that our powerful community is complicit in allowing white supremacy to flourish. Covert racism that is “socially acceptable” is one of the most powerful tools of white supremacy. There are very few opportunities to bear witness to overt racism in our community because it is so white.

It is easy to feel powerless right now, but feelings are not facts. The truth is, none of us in this community are powerless. Larchmont’s demographics actually make us disproportionately powerful. To acknowledge this power would mean taking responsibility. Attempting to take responsibility means risking failure. But we can always begin again because we have our lives. The thing is, no life matters in America until black lives matter. Black lives matter will not matter unless people in positions of power take action.

Larchmont residents, it is time to admit that you’re rich and white, no matter how down to earth you claim to be or who you vote for. Let’s start talking about how we use the privilege of this community for something other than parties and profits. This is a conversation that should never end. Let’s get together and do better. Any ideas?

Anna Robling
Larchmont

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diane horner
diane horner
22 days ago

Trump would love Larchmont Everywhere you look WHITE WHITE WHITE definitely his kind of place but your such good people you contribute your time and money to the food pantry the community resource center your old clothes to thrift shops your old furniture to furniture drives way to go Larchmont borders New Rochelle and the Village of Mamaroneck but some how no person of color can cross those boundaries and please don’t give me that old chestnut that LARCHMONT is too expensive Hello that is racism do you really believe that in the year 2020 in the NY metropolitan area there are no professional people of color Your school system is more segregated than the Schools in Miss. but you ‘ve got that great group Core studying it How long is that going to take Just go on telling your children to be nice to the poor under privileged children of color from afar Spare me from liberal do gooders You make me puke

Another Tufts Alum
Another Tufts Alum
22 days ago

Thank you, Anna, for this piece. Black Lives Matter.

I also hope that Larchmont parents can begin to truly confront and shift the embarrassing and dangerous classism that goes on in this community.

I am also a Tufts alumna, and I live in the MAS elementary district. Larchmont parents moving to the community who love the concept of “getting into” Dos Caminos from afar, but wouldn’t dare live near us or risk being in “the other” part of the school, or have play dates with the kids who qualify for free lunch: We see you.

Jane Doe
Jane Doe
22 days ago

It is strange that Anna Robling would choose to write a 3 page essay about George Floyd when Kamal Flowers was killed by police not days ago. I wonder why that is? One would think that a good ally like Anna wouldn’t be able to stop spreading the sad news of his death. Curious. Perhaps the narrative of a an armed black man pointing his gun at a police officer doesn’t fit so neatly into your brave white ally storyline. You seem as confused by your storyline as us, of course, concluding your op-ed with a bewildered “what do we do now?” question.
Here’s the radical solution your BLM overseers want to hear: de-segregation busing of Westchester schools through lottery. I hope you can bravely and courageously fight for that idea to the PTA and town board for us, Anna. It truly is the best solution against white supremacy an ally like you could ever hope to achieve.

Sam Tillman
Sam Tillman
22 days ago

Virtue signaling at it’s best.

Anonymous
Anonymous
23 days ago

Thank you for your letter. It was eye opening. I am a minority, and have moved to this community recently. I have tried to not introduce the concept of color to my children, however, my children were picking up their own opinions of African Americans from their peers and I was shocked. Even in the community itself, I have endured on many occasions the micro aggressions of being asked how I got here and where specifically do I live in the community. Sadly, if we do not explicitly change our own biases, we run the risk of infecting our community with them.

John Doe
John Doe
23 days ago

Going anon here, not because I’m ashamed to say what I believe in, but it’s a small town and I don’t want the rest of my family to be labeled for not personally agreeing with the consensus.

I have a few issues with what you’re saying. Let’s start with, “This is not politics, this is data”. Well if it’s not politics why do you need to discuss your transition from private to public school and how a mock election in THE SIXTH GRADE (more than 5 years away from legal voting age, with potentially new party nominees, so who really gives a shit) made you realize that you needed to be in somehow “less” of a bubble from your private catholic school and go back to Hommocks? Where more people voted for Obama? You had to transfer only because less than 30 people in your entire class size who were all of the same gender, and I’m assuming the same demographic, didn’t agree with you? Come. On. Not even considering the fact I almost feel bad for you that you weren’t a kid in sixth grade because it seems that you were getting a jump on your APUSH for junior year, you’re making this about you. You’re using the platform of black lives matter and the political climate to reflect on your personal experiences from your teen years which actually pale in comparison to the issues that people outside of this town (the audience you’re speaking about) face!

Lastly, as someone who engages the community and is an active participant in philanthropy, don’t generalize so many great people that do so much for this community as mere squatters for parties and profits. Oh, speaking of profits and to your question of ‘any ideas?’ how about selling your million dollar boat that sits in Larchmont harbor and donate THOSE profits to charity. Have a nice day.

Aimee T
Aimee T
23 days ago

Thank you for this excellent and well articulated letter. It serves as a good reminder to me to continue to make sure my kids are educated about and exposed to some of the harsh realities that face so many Americans (which so far my children have not experienced first hand). Your letter is inspiring me to increase both the education as well as hands-on contributions. Thank you.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
23 days ago

Very nice letter, Anna. Thank you for speaking out!

Peg Cozzi
23 days ago

Brava Anna! Well-said and true. thank you.

James
James
23 days ago

I believe the young lady should stop spouting the differences in color and promote what all of the colors have in common: Love, human spirit and the choice to treat each individual with respect and kindness, regardless of color.

Eliot
Eliot
23 days ago
Reply to  James

while I agree with the sentiment, you are obscuring the most important point Anna made: we have to acknowledge and address these differences in order to move forward, we cannot pretend they don’t exist, and you have a unique power as someone who is incredibly privileged to affect meaningful change

Catie Bateman
Catie Bateman
23 days ago
Reply to  James

This is precisely whats she’s speaking to though – refusing to see or understand the black experience being different than yours is a choice and not a good one. White people have the option to “be blind” to what goes on in towns like ours because we know, at the end of the day, our whiteness won’t ever adversely affect us. We can all be as kind as we want and need to be, but being kind doesn’t dismantle racism, it just allows it to continue unchecked in covert ways.

I would suggest to you that being “color blind” is something you should stop trying to be. Black people and other People of Color have unique experiences in our country and pretending like skin color doesn’t matter is simply untrue and hurtful to these communities.

Larchmont and Mamaroneck have a chance to be better. I hope we take it.

Lisa Mulligan
Lisa Mulligan
22 days ago
Reply to  Catie Bateman

How can they be better? Examples please.

Lisa Mulligan
Lisa Mulligan
22 days ago
Reply to  James

Treating everyone equally is no longer acceptable. If you are white, you are presume racist. If you are white, you must over compensate and treat blacks as though they are special and needy people. How insulting to them. Systemic racism is a myth in law enforcement considering the amount of arrests they make each year and the amount of deaths that occur in custody. It is not white privilege that’s the problem, it is elitism. Whoever coined the phrase white privilege has been very successful in convincing gullible white people that everything is their fault. I am white, I respect all people. I treat everyone the same. I don’t handle black people gingerly like I owe them something: that is racist. If I see a wrong, I speak up. If you expect me to feel guilty because I am white, move along. So far, where have all these protests accomplished? Minneapolis banished their police department. The muslim community is loving that. Just look how successful that is in France. the Bachelor series has a black lead for the first time. Wow! Sephora is dedicating shelf space to black business owners. Wow. There is no systemic racism. Obama was president for two terms. He had a super majority in Congress for two years. What did he do to right the wrongs done to black people? He is doing a great job now fanning the flames of these protest though from his mansion in Mass. Talk about elitism.

John Doe
John Doe
22 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Mulligan

Perfectly put, Lisa. And to the other John Doe’s comment, this entire argument she lays out is a waste of time.

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