A white pocket in Queens shaken by BLM protests

4 mins read

Black Lives Matter rallies in a Queens neighborhood have entered their third week. It has been met with anti-Black backlash. 

Located in the northernmost part of the borough, Whitestone is a quiet, reclusive upper-middle-class residential neighborhood. Though it’s  credited for its diversity in New York City, whites make up 61% of Whitestone’s population

“Growing up here, I really can’t tell you that I know any Black people who live in Whitestone,” said Jordan, who  attended recent demonstrations. 

Jordan, who asked to only go by their first name explained, “Whitestone is predominantly Greek and Italian populated. I’ve noticed that a lot of people in these communities do not expand as far as mixing with people outside of them. I’m a white passing Latina woman, but even having Latin blood made my freshman year boyfriend [who was a white, Greek from Whitestone] tell me his parents were not okay with him being around a ‘Hispaniola’ because they presumed I was going to ‘lie and cheat and only want money.’” 

Like most of New York City, Queens residents organized demonstrations to address growing racial issues in the country. Even in Whitestone. Almost everyday for the first two weeks of June, marches occurred on an overpass at the intersection between Clintonville Street and the Cross Island Parkway. As part of the rally, demonstrators hung signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, marches have been met with retaliation from the local white residents. 

Banner in support of Black Lives Matter in the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens. Photo credit: Sara Elroubi

Video footage shows St. Francis Prep senior and Whitestone resident, Anthony Abicca, ripping down posters on the same overpass. When asked why he’s taking them down, he responds “I don’t want you fuckers in my fucking town.”

Abicca also posted a video on Snapchat using racist obscenity while calling Whitestone a “white town.” 

In his rant he said: 

“Today’s episode is gonna be on direct action. Now, say you live in a nice town like I do, Whitestone, well it’s not that nice, but say you live in a nice little white town like Whitestone right? And you see some obese…probably half [inaudible word], half white with some niggers mixed in, sticking up Black Lives Matter signs on your fucking overpass. You can’t have that shit in Whitestone. So you know you pass by, you call ‘em dirty nigger lovers and faggots and shit.”

Preserving Whiteness

Overpass in Whitestone used as the site to hang posters, but also a location vandalized by anti-BLM, white residents. Photo credit: Sara Elroubi.

Black Lives Matter protesters believe that the backlash by white community members is due to resident’s desire to preserve its whiteness.

“I do not believe that the Whitestone community makes it safe for people— outside those [in] the Greek and Italian communities—to feel welcome as there are literally BLM signs that get angrily torn down every night by white men who do this when protestors leave the streets,” Jordan explains. 

Jordan, who also attended St. Francis Prep, but has no other known affiliation to Abicca, said she noticed this treatment occurred at the school towards Black and non-Black people of color in school as well. 

It was very rare that anyone outside of these white communities would be welcomed into those friend groups even in school, especially with the white Greek community in Whitestone, who were very exclusively only friends with each other or dated each other,” she said. 

When speaking to an activist, who also attended St. Francis Prep, a Catholic school, they came to a very similar realization while a student.  “Many black students shared the sentiment of administrative favoritism and leniency on Italian or white students,” recalled the activist who asked to remain unidentified, but runs the Instagram account @queenswontstandforthis

The activist continued. “It was a mixed group of students. Minorities stuck to themselves surrounded by other communities that sat together based on neighborhood.”

As a result, it came as no surprise to these advocates that they would receive negative and often hateful, racialized reactions from residents in Whitestone. Some community members created Facebook groups to plan a march against Black Lives Matter and for the police. 

To assume that just because we were fighting against racism in Whitestone that we were COMING into their neighborhood . . . we are FROM here, these are OUR streets that we grew up on too,” Jordan wrote.

She went on. “The concept of anti-racism is just so out of their realm of thinking and so distant from their lives that they automatically assume that just because we are protesting racism in the neighborhood that we must not be from there, and I think this says a lot about the mentality here in Whitestone.” 

. . . .

Protester in Whitestone. Photo credit: AlexTookYour.

Cynthia Sianturi, who frequently goes to Whitestone, was not surprised by the hostility shown by residents towards Black Lives Matter protesters based on her experiences in the neighborhood. 

My friends and I were in Whitestone and we wanted to go to the park by the Whitestone Bridge,” she recalled. “We park in a public spot in front of this woman’s house and she looks at us outside her window and we notice that as we’re sitting in the car.” 

Quickly, the woman comes outside then tells Sianturi and her friends to go park somewhere else. “She was like you guys cannot park here and we’re like ‘why’?” Sianturi detailed. “She said, ‘this is where I park my car,’ and we’re like ‘your car is in your lot . . .There’s no problem with us parking here.’” 

When the woman refused to budge, Sianturi and her friends decided to look for parking elsewhere. While driving, they realized the woman following them in her car. She then furiously exited her vehicle and told the girls to get out of the area altogether. 

“She was threatening us. She was like be careful ladies, be careful. And we decided okay. We need to get the hell out of Whitestone,” Sianturi recalled. 

Despite the pushback from residents; however, demonstrators continue to organize in the neighborhood.

Sara Elroubi

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