Four days after an African-American woman awoke to “White Power,” swastikas and profanity scribbled on her garage door, she rose to find her property surrounded with a different kind of message: neon signs that read “Here with love,” “Hate will never be comfortable! We stand united in fight to end racism,” and hand-drawn hearts, which stood tall around the front and back sides of her townhome on the 7700 block of Harvard.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retribution for speaking out about the hate speech incident, said she heard something outside her townhome on the 7700 block of Harvard about 6 a.m. on Oct. 17, but it wasn’t enough to make her stir from bed. Nearly two hours later, around 7:45 a.m., she stepped outside to find six heartwarming signs posted on her back fence and four staked in front of her home. “It was like the whole property was surrounded with love,” she said. The woman started crying.
“A few days earlier I kind of felt like I was on an island, like ‘Why me? Why single me out?’… [With] the outpouring and outreach of support I feel very, very well connected to the community even though I was anonymous,” she said. “I feel really good that people still care about their community, and they were seeking out where this happened. We want to shut this [hate speech] down, know this is not acceptable.”
She wanted to thank the community for their signs and support, neighbors for reaching out to make sure she felt safe, and Suburban Unity Alliance, an Oak Park-based group that aims to showcase diversity and raise awareness about discrimination in suburban communities. She said Suburban Unity Alliance signed some of the signs they posted.
Although the woman intended to leave the hate speech scratched on her garage door forever, after seeing neighbors’ signs, she decided to wash the black chicken-scratch off on Oct. 20. As for installing security cameras and applying for her concealed carry license, “the precautionary measures are in place and under way,” she said. She believes showcasing the hate speech served its purpose of raising awareness about racism, and hopes the community used it as an opportunity to talk with friends and children about race.
“If you take this energy and effort to deface my property and write these hateful words, what are you going to do when you see me? What if I am coming home late, walking to the corner store? So that was the part that frightened me so much,” she said. “You obviously know that I’m an African-American person living here, you obviously don’t like it, you displayed it by your cowardice of writing these hurtful, harmful words. What’s next? Do you want to physically harm me? So my whole thing is, I wanted awareness, wanted visibility, wanted people to know this happened.
“I didn’t expect the outpouring of love, reaching out and going out of their way to find out where this was. So I want to thank Forest Park for embracing the diversity.”