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Does My Neighbor Care About My Black Feelings?

By Vicki Hodges
Posted: 08/17/2020

So as I’m taking my daily morning walk last Friday I noticed that my neighbor’s tree had two slender ropes hanging from a low lying branch with nooses at the end. “Hmm,” I thought to myself. “Does this mean what I think it means? Is she trying to send a message?”  But no, she’s a nice white woman with brightly colored “Craylola” hair who always speaks to me whenever we cross paths. Surely this must be an innocent thing, right?

But it bothered me. Especially in light of the two recent hangings of young black men here in Southern California. Whether one was a suicide and not, in fact, murder was still to be determined. Even if the ropes hanging from her tree were of an innocent nature the optics were bad. The images provoked unbidden memories of the history of lynching in this country and the inherent racism that precipitated such acts. It was worrisome to say the least to think that this would happen on my block, in my neighborhood where I have lived for the past 12 years with no racial tension whatsoever. The block is largely white and Hispanic. There are a total of 3 black residents.

I decided to write a nice note asking if she would “consider removing the ropes.” I told her how they made me feel in light of history and current events with black men being murdered. I placed the note in her mailbox and included my name and address (I live across the street) and invited a discussion.
The next day I walked by and noticed her mailbox was still had mail. That evening I noticed her car in the driveway and decided to have a conversation since the box still looked full. I attempted to slide her gate open but found it was locked. On Sunday morning, the gate was still locked and the mailbox full. I had not heard from her and assumed she still hadn’t seen my note.

Meanwhile, I chatted with two neighbors I trust and asked them for their thoughts. One was perturbed but thought maybe it was “a swing in the making” and the other was quite nonchalant and said it was “something for her kids to play with.” Both of these neighbors were white. Later I asked a third neighbor who assured me, “oh she’s VERY liberal and would never have those things up there on purpose.” Hmm…he was also white.
Monday morning, still not much happening. No feedback, no gate access but the mailbox appeared to have been emptied. Later that day….the ropes were gone!!!
What happened? Did she read the note and decide to do the right thing and take them down? But decided not to reach out to me? Did a neighbor say something to her?  I don’t know.

I am disappointed that we could not have had a “teachable moment” type of conversation especially if she is supposedly “so liberal.” Doesn’t she WANT to know that this image bothered me, one of her neighbors? Doesn’t she want to know more about the “why” of it? How is she feeling about my note? I want a conversation, damn it!.

NOTE: It goes without saying that I feel very “alone” and marginalized in my neighborhood. Although my white neighbors mean well nobody can really understand what those nooses “mean” unless you are black or very attuned to the history of racism in this country.

But there is more to this story… continued here.

-    - Vickie -

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