I’ve got to give it to a Lehigh County, Pa., day-care owner for not letting herself be intimidated by a racist threat.
Some other small business owners might have quietly caved in to the letter writer’s demands.
Not Dominique McKelley. Not only is the owner of Bridge 2 Creative Learning Center in Whitehall Township standing her ground, but she’s also speaking out against the racist coward who wrote a threatening anonymous letter ordering her to fire an employee because her skin color was deemed too dark.
“My staff isn’t leaving,” McKelley told me Thursday. “We will all stand together. This is not OK, and this is not going to divide us. That’s what makes us who we are.”
Two weeks ago, Bridge 2 Creative received two copies of a letter from someone claiming to be a “concerned parent and friend” asking that a black employee be terminated. Here it is, with typos and errors galore:
“Our problem is she’s to dark most of the kids is scared of her,” the letter said. “I am only telling you this because some of us are planning to pull our kid form the daycare shes an eye sore. I see you’re trying to touch all of the nationalities but maybe hire a light skinned black she would blend more and not look like a “NANNY”. She’s not the first thing a child nor the parents want to see soon as they walk in the daycare.”
I know this is outrageous and offensive to read, but please stay with me:
“So the choice is yours! Choose wisely remember WE THE PARENTS PAY YOUR MORTAGE. I hope you make her aware shes not wanted. I’m sending her a copy as well. However if she needs a job Mcdonalds is always hiring her kind. So work your magic and make it disappear!!!”
The letter concludes with a P.S.: “Just trying ‘TO MAKE YOUR DAYCARE GREAT AGAIN.’ ”
No name or return address were included. McKelley and some staffers shared it on social media, where it has gone viral, with many blaming President Trump’s racially coded campaign slogan and his statements for making neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan sympathizers feel comfortable in expressing their bigotry.
Anti-hate groups have reported an uptick in racial incidents since the election of Trump, who in August famously said white supremacists in Charlottesvillle, Va., had “some very fine people” in their ranks.
Barely a day goes by that I don’t get an email from someone calling me a racial epithet or unleashing bigoted baggage on me. As a newspaper columnist, that’s to be expected. I’m a public person. My name and face are in the paper.
McKelley, who is white, didn’t ask for any of this. She takes care of people’s kids. She’s understandably shaken, but also convinced that whoever penned it doesn’t have a child attending activities at her place.
“You have to know our center to know who we are,” she told me. “Most of my families have been with me since we opened. Those who haven’t are referred to us from other families. I don’t advertise for children, they just come.”
“We’re different from other day-care centers,” McKelley added. “It’s just a different atmosphere, so we’re sure that it’s not an immediate family that we have in here.”
The center opened in 2009 and serves 130 children. It has 15 employees, including the person whose skin color the letter writer didn’t like. That employee offered to resign, but I’m glad McKelley wouldn’t accept her resignation. She prides herself on having a diverse staff and serving all kinds of children.
“This is about threatening my business by bullying me into getting rid of an awesome employee because she is darker than someone cares for,” McKelley wrote on Facebook.
Whitehall police tell me they are investigating. “We are still in the process of doing the investigation and the follow-up, following up on a couple of different leads, and hopefully they will lead to an arrest,” said Commissioner Michael Marks, adding that possible charges could be “along the lines of harassment with an ethnic intimidation enhancement to it.”
Someone recently started collecting signatures on Change.org to support Bridge 2 Creative. Meanwhile, McKelley hasn’t been sleeping well. It’s all been very upsetting. As we spoke, she started crying. McKelley wants things at her day care to get back to normal.
The kids may not be aware of it now, but one day they will learn about this ugly incident. And when they do, it will serve as a lesson in saying no to bigotry.