Lindenhurst community members are rallying to support an African-American family who last week received an anonymous letter in which the author urged them to move from the predominantly white South Shore village.
Ronica Copes, who opened the hand-addressed envelope on Thursday, reported the incident to Suffolk County police. The next day, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone publicly condemned the unnamed author, whom he called a “coward.” After seeing news coverage of the incident, neighbors have taken it upon themselves to show the family that Lindenhurst is not hateful.
“I started this campaign to show that family who got the letter some love,” Joe Ciatto of Lindenhurst wrote on a Facebook post that has been shared widely. “I plan on printing out letters from the community or anyone who wants to join and sending them to their house to let them know that there are still REAL people in this world.”
Suffolk Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit detectives are investigating the incident, which Bellone termed a “hate crime.”
The letter, postmarked May 19, was simply addressed to “African-American family” and from “the Lindenhurst community.” The hate-filled note was printed in all capital letters.
“Lindenhurst is 84% white population,” it read. “You don’t belong here!!! Please leave Lindenhurst as soon as you can.
“It will be better for all of us,” it continued. “Find the town where there are more people like you. Sorry if this is rude, but it’s the truth.”
In response, the Copes family said they don’t plan on moving from the home they’ve shared for about two years. Ronica told the New York Post that the letter “didn’t work.” Instead, the family said they’ll stay put and continue praying for the author to become more educated and less ignorant about people who are different from them.
“Sometimes you have a preconceived idea of how a person is just because you don’t know them,” Ronica’s mother, Darcell, told WABC-TV. “You don’t know how they live. You don’t know what they believe.”
Ciatto, who launched the charm offensive, plans on delivering the letters by hand once he has gathered a large amount of them. Others plan to send their own letters directly to the Copes family. The county executive was one of several local lawmakers to join Copes’ neighbors in declaring that the letter writer does not speak for Lindenhurst.
“There is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County,” Bellone said in a statement. “I stand together with all Lindenhurst residents who decry this act of hatred. This community and all of Suffolk County are better than that.”