NEW YORK — Ronica Copes and her family have lived in their Long Island home for almost two years. But just last week, they received the most unwelcoming letter in the mail:
“Attn: African-American family,” the letter said in all caps. “Lindenhurst is 84% white population. You don’t belong here!!!”
It’s almost laughable, if it weren’t so painful.
“Sooooo, I’m checking my mail and when I come across this I can’t help but laugh … wait, it’s not funny though,” Copes wrote on Facebook. “Unbelievable but then it’s not … our daily reality, I’ve just never seen it in this form.”
The anonymous letter tells the Copeses to “please leave Lindenhurst as soon as you can.”
“It will be better for all of us,” the writer said. “Find the town where there are more people like you.”
Copes was floored, saying she had a good rapport with her neighbors in the New York community.
“We were really surprised,” she told CNN affiliate WPIX. “We just didn’t think that this type of thing would happen this late in the game.”
Possible hate crime
Suffolk County police are investigating the case, but so far, it’s not clear who sent the letter.
Instead of a return address, the sender simply said the letter was from the “Community.”
But Lindenhurst village and Babylon town officials said in a joint statement that the letter doesn’t represent the community at all.
“We strongly condemn this hateful letter and are working closely with the Suffolk County Police and our Anti-Bias Task Force to investigate this incident,” the joint statement said.
“We are, and always will be, a strong diverse community that does not cede ground to hostility, ignorance, or hatred, wherever it may appear.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had even harsher words for the author:
“To the coward who committed a hate crime against an innocent family in Lindenhurst — There is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County,” he said, according to WPIX. “I know the Suffolk County Police Department will do everything possible to solve this hate crime, out you and see you punished.”
‘You need to get out and meet people’
Lindenhurst village, population 27,000, is about 92% white and about 1.5% black or African-American, according to 2010 Census data.
Copes’ mother chalked the racist letter up to ignorance.
“Sometimes you have a preconceived idea of how a person is just because you don’t know them, you don’t know how they live, you don’t know what they believe,” Darcell Copes told CNN affiliate WABC.
“I would just like to say that I’ll continue to pray for you, and you need to get out and meet people.”
She said she was heartened by support from other residents, including a young girl who came to bring her flowers and a balloon.
“As soon as we saw like what the people wrote down, we went and we got flowers,” the girl told WABC.
Others stopped by the house to offer hugs or messages of encouragement.
Ronica Copes said the family isn’t moving.
“You don’t have a right to force us to go anywhere,” she told WPIX. “And we have every right to stay.”
By Holly Yan
Rick Martin contributed to this report.