Letter: "Racism on Cape Cod: Hatred Comes to Harwich"

by Marilyn Schlansky of Harwich

Editor's Note:  This is a letter to the editor from a Harwich resident.  It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cape Cod Today's editors or advertisers.  It is published verbatim as submitted.  Those with opposing views are welcome to submit their own signed letters, as well.

“Hatred Comes to Harwich”

It’s taken me a week to write this letter because I wanted to be very clear about the facts.  My husband and I live year round in Harwich, and delight in having our children and grandchildren come to visit, as so many of us do.  I want to tell you about an ugly incident that happened to us at the lakeside beach on Cahoon Road off Route 137 on June 26th.  To set the scene let me introduce the cast of characters.  There are myself and my husband, typical grey-haired retirees; my son, daughter-in-law, and toddler daughter (all white); my daughter, her Guyanese American husband, (brown), and their two teenage daughters, (tan, and light brown respectively).  We set our chairs up in the shade about 50 feet from the lakeshore, and my husband, myself, the baby and her parents, went down to the water.  My daughter and family were chatting quietly in the shade.  Also on the beach near us, a Latina woman and her two small boys, not related, but also brown. 

An elderly lady and her husband, who wore a red Trump hat, sat about 25 feet behind us.  This elderly lady came up to my 16 year old granddaughter and said she was angry that she sat in front of her, albeit 25 feet away.  My son-in-law politely apologized and offered to have his daughter move.  The woman did not think this was acceptable.  This woman said, and I quote my daughter, “I don’t know how they do things where you come from, but we don’t do that here”.  My son-in-law again offered to have his daughter move, but the woman just repeated her comment.  My daughter asked her what she meant by this, and told her if she didn’t want the girl to move than to leave them alone, and to stop making racist remarks.  We had come up from the water by now to find our daughter in tears but reluctant to tell us the reason.

A few days later my daughter wrote about the incident on Facebook.  I shared it with my Facebook friends.  I immediately had offers of a posse to go down to the beach and tell these folks a thing or two.  And the point is, these loyal supporters include two Episcopal priests, a Catholic priest, and people of Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, and Buddhist persuasions.  This is what I know about Harwich.  This welcoming, diverse town is where I live.  Now I don’t know if these Trump hat wearing people lived here, were summer visitors, rented, or what.  But I do know what proud, patriotic, generous and compassionate people my daughter and her family are.  They are known among their friends and ours for charities they support, the people they help, the kindness they show.

Now we all know how Cape businesses depend on this image of small-town, old-fashioned, American fun during the summer.  This is a place where people bring their kids to make family memories, as my husband and I did years ago.  This is a place where restaurants, ice cream parlors, hometown baseball games, beaches and boatrides thrive because people, all kinds of people, feel welcome and at home here.  But the newspapers back in May were full of stories about how these businesses were impacted by the loss of seasonal workers, some who had been coming for years, who all of a sudden couldn’t get visas.  There are dozens of summer jobs going unfulfilled and this translates to the bottom line of someone who lives and works here.   

The cover of this week’s New Yorker magazine depicts a young black woman in a blue bathing suit covered in white stars holding a red and white striped beach ball.  Now which image do you want for Harwich?  This one?  Or a guy in a Trump hat ready to decide who gets to be on the beach and who doesn’t?  Let’s keep hatred out of Harwich and off the Cape.


Marilyn Schlansky



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