A welcome T-shirt came with an unwelcome message to some Black families in a Westchester County town.
An unofficial “Welcome to Dobbs Ferry” shirt was left at the home of three Black families, with the front of the shirt seeming harmless — but on the back was written something that has angered many in the small town.
“You came here 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,” the long message on the back of the shirt read. “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.”
One local activist said that no matter the possible intent of the shirt, whether it’s through lack of understanding or “willful ignorance,” the message is overtly racist.
“If you are not racist or phobic, you would not call people ‘whatever you are,'” said Kelli Scott. “These shirts were in driveways and doorsteps. Families woke up to this.”
Scott is a local chef and activist from the neighboring town of Irvington. She said she has been in contact with the families involved, and that they wish to remain anonymous.
“They’re pretty shaken and kind of in a state of disbelief,” said Scott.
Scott and fellow local activists Arlene Burgos and Jayda Holifield are planning a rally Sunday to combat what they call a clearly hateful message. The women said they are disappointed by posts in a local Facebook group defending the message as harmless.
“That is saying, ‘If you’re like me then guess what, welcome. If you’re not like me, then you’re not welcome here.’ And that’s a problem,” said Burgos.
“If you have the privilege to do something like this, to even be able to send it out, print it, and now you feel like you have the privilege to explain yourself,” Holifield said.
The message on the t-shirt doesn’t appear to be original or written by the person that handed out the shirts. The passages last sparked controversy in a Connecticut town after its police commissioner posted the same words on his Facebook profile, according to The Westerly Sun.
It’s unclear where the quote originated but it has been going around social media since 2019.
Dobbs Ferry police said they’ve launched a preliminary investigation, but they have not received a report from any of the families impacted by the message.