Racism may be alive and well, but it has been faced head-on in West Town, Chicago, thanks to two brave moms.
On Oct. 16, Heather DeJonker and Maria Ippolito received an anonymous letter scolding them for having Ferrai Pickett — an African-American woman — as their nanny. Now, they are organizing a “Stand Up to Hate” play date to help bring people of all backgrounds together.
Penned by “Concerns [sic] Ukrainian Village Moms,” the letter tells the women that it’s “amusing” to see the two “trying to rebel against the greatest leader this country has ever seen.”
What’s worse, the authors of the openly racist message said they “do not need an infestation in our community" and urged the moms to “fire her because otherwise it looks like she is your modern-day mammy.”
After receiving this horrific piece of mail, the women contacted First Ward Alderman Joe Moreno and the police. Then, they installed security cameras.
“It was very upsetting to all of us, and while we were deeply hurt, we also knew that silence was not an option. We had to take action,” the women wrote on their Facebook event page.
“We were all absolutely sickened by this, but luckily most of the community has rallied around us and our babysitter. As a group, we decided that we need to do more," they explained.
Moreno said that the letter, which was filled with racial slurs, including the n-word, was “repulsive.” He has been encouraging others to participate in the play date and plans on joining as well.
Pickett has been DeJonker’s nanny since August 2014. In early 2015, she started looking after Ippolito’s son as well. At times, Pickett brings her 9-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece to her nanny job, and all five children play together.
According to Ippolito, both moms were overjoyed to see the kids playing together, especially during summer since school is out and the kids have fewer options when it comes to spending time with other children.
In addition to noting that after learning about the letter she had to “take a deep breath and a step back,” Pickett said she first thought of quitting.
“But then I remembered I have little ears listening to my every word. Little eyes watching my every move. Little hearts filled with love. Little brains thirsty for knowledge,” she said. “So why be angry and lash out when this person isn’t the first, last, or only racist.”
Although she said she didn't see the letter, she explained that she wants to use this opportunity to teach kids how “to handle adversity correctly.”
“These precious faces are our future. They are my babies, and I will show them how strong I am. I will show them how to unify and celebrate each other’s differences,” she said.
Choosing to look at this incident as a chance to grow, both moms and the nanny wrote their own letter in response, saying they would “not let hate win, we will stand up and speak out against evil; we won’t respond with hate but with kindness...”
It’s exactly this type of noble attitude toward a grotesque show of racism and hate that we need to see taking place more often.
When people stand up against hate with love, they influence others in a much more meaningful way, bringing more people together and inspiring them to be better. Now that we have a commander-in-chief whose rhetoric helped to ignite the flame of bigotry everywhere, it is precisely this kind of love we must see spreading nationwide.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Wikimedia Commons/woodleywonderworks