Scarsdale is a town with a rich history and a population that has ebbed and transformed over the decades. Having grown up in the town, I often heard the stories of discrimination at Winged Foot Country Club in the neighboring town barring Jewish members and members of color, such as that experienced by Michael Dixon in 1979. While talked about as if a distant tale, integration didn’t even occur in Scarsdale’s clubs until the passing of the New York Human Rights Law in the late 1990s. But this isn’t about golf.
Scarsdale as a community has hardly changed through the years in who is welcomed and who is, albeit, silenced. As of 2019, our community makeup is 79.3% White, 1.3% Black or African American, 15% Asian, 6% Hispanic (US Census). Many young community members, such as myself, who have left the bubble of Scarsdale, are finally seeing that the world outside of the village is completely different. I believe that the community is truly missing out on an opportunity to foster change, growth and diversity within our school to prepare students for the real world. The high school is currently reviewing the curriculum to include a more diverse education, in race and gender, for students. Yet inside of our schools and community, there is more than curriculum that needs to be changed. For example, in the recent January/February 2021 “Dale Dispatch” the only featured members of the community were white. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t outstanding teachers and leaders of color in our schools or community to feature.
Recently, during the Ad Hoc Council to Combat Racism and Bias listening session, a council member apparently did not know what POC stood for. For those unaware, it stands for People of Color. Some may also hear BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Clearly, the council has a role to play to educate the community around racism and bias.
Furthermore, if suggestions made to the council are not acted upon, then systemic changes aren’t possible. The council and those who appointed them must avoid taking a performative approach to anti-racism and allyship. Diversity and inclusion consultant Carmen Morris in Forbes Magazine discusses the dangers of performative anti-racism, defining performative allyship as being “when those with privilege profess solidarity with a cause. This is usually vocalized. Often the performative ally professes an allegiance in order to distance themselves from potential scrutiny.” Morris goes on to state that in contrast, allies are those in power advocating alongside those who experience discrimination. I would challenge the Scarsdale community and council to become more than allies, but co-conspirators, partners in the fight against racism. Simply being an ally, at this point, will do nothing. The council must act upon the experiences of POC to foster equity.
When I asked other community members if another listening session would be held with the council, I was informed that it is being considered depending on the volume of responses made to the community survey. I encourage everyone to get involved in the conversation by going to the Community Experience Questionnaire and speaking up. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/3cEAs8M.
How much longer do we as white members of the community have to dominate the spaces of power, and silence or dismiss our community members of color? As a white woman who grew up in Scarsdale, I believe that the white people in power need to end Scarsdale’s performative allyship. Outside of the bubble that is Scarsdale, the world is different. If the conversations stop now, I believe that the white community in Scarsdale will miss an opportunity to end systemic racism.
— Margot Dejean, MSW candidate ’22, Columbia University School of Social Work, grew up in Quaker Ridge and currently lives in New York City.