'White Power' scribbled on woman's garage

Victim believes Trump's rhetoric has empowered white supremacists

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By Nona Tepper

Sometime between 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 9:20 a.m. on Oct. 13, someone scribbled "White Power," swastikas, and profanity on a garage on the 7700 block of Harvard, a townhome owned by an African-American woman. 

The victim, who asked to remain anonymous over fears of retribution, said this is the first time her home has been vandalized in the 20 years she's lived on the block. She said she plans to leave the scribbles on her garage door, as a message that she's not intimidated, has no plans to move, and to raise awareness about the racist voices she believes President Donald Trump has elevated and empowered.   

"Our president, I think his way of governing our country has given people courage to be prejudiced of different types of things, be it your religion, your ethnic beliefs, your culture, because he just says that, as president, I can do it and it's OK because he does," the woman said. "People have these views, and have had these views since before time. I thought we were growing to a place where we're educated enough to agree to disagree. If you don't want to live near me, don't come on my property because it's a private drive. Don't walk onto the property. But to do this, they went out of their way." 

She said she arrived home about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 and did not see the hate speech then. But the next morning, she woke to a phone call from a neighbor, alerting her that someone had defaced her garage. The victim said she called police before leaving her townhome because she was scared about what she might encounter outside. 

When she saw the chicken scratch handwriting, she felt numb. 

"I became a little afraid like, 'What's going to happen? Does this mean they're going to burn a cross on my house or lynch me?' I'm 58 and I've never had to deal with this, and I grew up in white suburbia in the '60's. I've never had to deal with this and I didn't know how to feel," she said. 

The victim said she left for a memorial service about an hour later, caught up with a friend for dinner in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago and then talked on the phone the entire way home, afraid of what she might find when she arrived in Forest Park. When she approached her block, she saw a neighbor outside who escorted her to her driveway. 

"I want people to know this is happening in our community," she said. "I was just gullibly feeling like I was safe over here for the last 20 years. It's put a new twist on it. It's real. You might not be black but we're human beings and this kind of stuff shouldn't be happening. Like I said, I want some exposure. I don't want to come up dead or missing and nobody knows why." 

She called the offender a coward. "If you really feel that way, tattoo it on your forehead, don't sneak behind my back in the dark and say 'Hi' to me the next day." She said she has no idea who would have committed this crime. She moved to the townhome on the 7700 block of Harvard in January 1999, seeking diversity from west suburban Rolling Meadows, where she lived before. Over the two decades she has lived here, she said, the neighborhood and block have been welcoming. 

Now she plans to install security cameras, check the cameras every time before she leaves her home and apply for a concealed-carry firearm license. 

"There is that parking lot behind our property. It's one of those Forest Park lots; it's fairly new, been there maybe a year or so. There is an influx of people coming and going. Maybe somebody there has seen me," she said. "I would find it very hard to believe that somebody who lives in these homes did this." 

Police Chief Thomas Aftanas called the vandalism an isolated incident and said the department does not have a suspect at this time. Officers, he added, are going to keep extra watch in the area, particularly at her residence. He said detectives are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. 

"The victim herself said there haven't been any incidents with neighbors or anything. It's obvious, I would think, that the suspect knows that an African-American lives there; otherwise it would just be a huge coincidence," he said. "It could be someone who is just passing through and maybe seen her. But I don't know for sure." 

Aftanas said victims of hate crimes should report the incident or any suspicious persons to the Forest Park Police Department and stay vigilant.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

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Rosalio Medina  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 10:08 AM

Forest park is the place that for 18 years has been racing my kids,I am planning to do the same thing, I am ready to reject racism,bigotry and any Kaine of discriminations, stand by together, and don't be afraid,they want to control by fears,I have a message to that person, forest park is a village of courageous peoples you don'ts have a place here ,take your racism and lack of respect some place else,sorry to my neighbor, we will stay vigilant.

Jerry Webster  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 9:55 AM

It sounds like your neighbors have your back, hope they catch the creep.

Suzanne Winnicki  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 8:54 AM

I am sorry this happened to you.

Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 10:31 PM

The little sh!t that did this may be reading this article right now, his beady eyes all aglow at the fuss he's caused. So know this, Little Sh!t. People talk. Cameras watch. Eyes are out. Someone saw something. Keep looking behind you, because this is going to catch up to you. Then god help you, in this era of having every action on the Web forever. Try to find a job, or an apartment. Good luck, ya Little Sh!t.

Amy Binns-Calvey  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 10:17 PM

This is horrible. One of Forest Park's strengths is its diverse community. This vandal can't change that. To anonymous, please know that there is a unified group of your neighbors who will stand with you and against hate speech.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 9:11 PM

This is totally unacceptable behavior from one human being to another. Forest Park has had a diverse population as long as I've lived here and was one of the things that brought me here in the 70's. I despise that someone felt it was okay to deface another person's property and then to write what they wrote is worse. It saddens me as I believe like she does that Trump has empowered the evil hearts in this world to act out like this. Wrong wrong wrong. I also have a power washer.

Tommy Barnes  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 7:21 PM

Dear anonymous owner of defaced garage. Have "power"-washer, will travel. No charge.

April Maroney  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 6:45 PM

I too am disgusted and ashamed. Ashamed that anyone is treated this way, let alone in my town. Hate has no place in my home and for racists to hide behind the notion that "Trump does it, so I can too" is not only ignorant & wrong but shows what cowards these people are. I don't hate people for their views, the color of their skin, the God they worship, the person they love...I don't hate. I too will come wash this off.

Kate Nolan  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 6:27 PM

This is outrageous. I am infuriated. Like Kathleen, I understand why you want to leave it up. But when it is time, I will help you remove it. We must do better.

Kathleen Gerrans  

Posted: October 16th, 2018 6:23 PM

This is disgraceful. I understand your decision to leave it up and not be intimidated, but if you want help removing it, I'm in. I'm sorry this happened to you.

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