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A Slow Slide Straight Back Into Racism

A Slow Slide Straight Back Into Racism
Date Posted: Monday, February 21st, 2022

A metal playground slide is vandalized with a racial slur, while some wonder what will be next


By MICHAEL HINMAN

Who knows how long the word was scratched into the metal, plain as day for anyone to see and read.

Minutes? Hours? Days? Did people see it and just brush it off as if it were any old graffiti?

Jennifer Scarlott doesn’t know. Yet that’s not what dominates her thoughts right now. To her, someone was mischievous — or outright comfortable enough — to carve the “N-word” into a metal slide at the Spuyten Duyvil playground, mere yards from P.S. 24 and Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy.

And that’s more than enough to scare her.

“It feels like it’s always been there,” Scarlott said. Not the hateful, despicable word a mom found in the playground last weekend. Instead, everything behind it.

“People feel emboldened to express stuff like this, stuff you just never used to see in an area like this,” Scarlott said. “I don’t want to sound naive, I mean, but this is old, old stuff.”

As the calls were made to police and the city’s parks department, the graffiti quickly made its way to social media, met by a wall of disgust. Within hours, the offending words were scraped away. But not the pain it caused.

Or the fear.

“I have a sinking feeling it was done by teens,” one person posted on Twitter. “Because the only thing that can make this worse is if it were done by a young person, and not a hateful adult. Either way it needs to be cleaned up and looked into so it doesn’t happen again.”

The condemnations from other elected officials came just as swiftly. Councilman Eric Dinowitz tweeted himself that one of his boys pointed the graffiti out to him that morning. He later released a joint statement with his own father, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, declaring that “everybody in our community — regardless of race or ethnicity or any demographic factor, deserves to feel safe and welcome. Especially when they are playing with their children at a local park.”

“Playgrounds should be places filled with laughter of children, and free from the world’s worries,” the Dinowitzes said. “It is deeply disturbing that anyone would defile a playground with such hateful and vulgar language.”

Yet, as much as Scarlott would like to treat what was scraped onto the slide as an isolated act of vandalism, the North Bronx Racial Justice group leader says there is just too much of a pattern — especially in recent years — to dismiss it.

In fact, she has compiled what has become a rather lengthy list of incidents dating back to a claimed white supremacist rally at Inwood’s Fort Tryon Park back in July 2018.

A few months later, flyers purported to be connected to a white supremacist group were posted on the Woodlawn side of Van Cortlandt Park.

Nearly two years later, a backpack with an AR-15 assault weapon was found stashed in the park, which police later said was connected to someone who had “disturbing” texts on his phone at the height of protests decrying the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

Not long after, a series of nooses — long tied to racist rhetoric — were found in nearby parks in Harlem, Inwood, and Van Cortlandt Park leading up to that year’s Juneteenth observance.

That’s not even including other incidents looked at as connected to hate, including last year’s rock vandalism of synagogues and other Jewish institutions in and around Riverdale that left many in the community on high alert for weeks.

“But that’s the thing,” Scarlott said. “Whenever there is anti-Semitic activity in Riverdale, the cops, the city, the electeds, the media are all over it. Rightly. But when there is anti-Black stuff that is similar, it goes down the rabbit hole.”

“This is a playground where my children play,” U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman tweeted soon after pictures of the playground vandalism was released. “These tags aren’t randomly appearing. Racism and hate is unfortunately becoming the norm, and our resolve to fight it has to be greater.”

The 50th Precinct received 23 reports of hate crime last year, making 13 arrests, according to data compiled by the New York Police Department. Citywide, however, there were more than 520 reported incidents, resulting in 219 arrests.

The only precinct with more reported hate crime than this was the 14th Precinct in Midtown where there were 38 reported incidents leading to 15 arrests.

Unfortunately for Scarlott, there isn’t much anyone can do, except continue to educate, and continue to call out whenever there’s even a hint of hate anywhere.

“I think all we can do is call on the appropriate authorities to take the actions they are empowered to do,” Scarlott said.

“That fact that all of this may come to naught, and you might not ever find the perpetrators, and there might not ever be any accountability is neither here nor there. You need to go through all the steps to try to investigate, and to show the public at large that our representatives, our police — the people we pay tax money to work for us — care, and are trying to stop it.”

Source: Michael Hinman/The Riverdale Press.com

Date Posted: Monday, February 21st, 2022 , Total Page Views: 508

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