My Racist Neighbor
My neighbor is a racist. I don’t use the term racist lightly. As a Black woman in the United States, encountering a racist is nothing new. I’ve come across racists in shopping malls, parks, grocery stores and even the workplace. They say and do things, sometimes with little passive-aggressive, micro-aggressions that make you think “Did they just do that?” or “Did they just say that?.” There are many people, who are Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBQT+, etc. who have had similar stories of dealing with these behaviors. These experiences happen on the regular. Its tiring, frustrating and can be draining because there is no “break” from racism and oppression. With the Black Lives Matter movement and seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and countless others, we are seeing hundreds of years of racism and oppression play out daily on television and in the press, a reminder that our Black lives don’t matter in the eyes of the majority. We are seen as the “other.” This is part of being Black in America.
Where racism can be subtle, there are instances where racism is quite overt and in your face. For example, when I was 10 or 11 years-old in the 1980’s, I saw a Klu Klux Klan (KKK) demonstration in Bluewell, West Virginia, at one of the two stoplights in town at the time. They were handing out, what I believe to be recruitment flyers. As my mom drove through the intersection, they called my mom, sister, grandmother, and I n**gers. With their confederate flags waving and in their robes, they proudly displayed their racism out in the open that day. Although I knew about the KKK and racism in general, that was the first time I had been called the “n-word.”
Getting back to my neighbor, initially he had no problems interacting with my husband, a White guy who grew up in Seattle, Washington. My husband grew up in the protective “liberal bubble” of the Pacific Northwest, never experiencing firsthand instances of racism or extreme prejudices, but reading about it and seeing it on television. He knew it was out there, but it wasn’t something he’d been directly exposed to, a plus side of being a White, straight guy in America.
The incident with our neighbor was the first time that my husband “experienced” racism on a personal level. It came as a shock to him, as our neighbor called my husband a n***er lover and me a n***er (at least 10 times, but I’ll get to that later). When we moved into our new home, I felt that there was something off about the guy next door. My husband is very friendly and introduces himself to folks no matter who it is or where we are. It’s just his personality and I love him for it. I am more cautious and like to take things slowly when getting to know people. I like to read people’s body language, facial expression, and tone just to get a “read” on them to see if this is someone I can or should trust. With my neighbor, my internal system flashed “warning.” He just didn’t seem “right.” Describing what seeming “right” means is hard to explain, although I think a lot of people have intuition that we sometimes ignore, especially when we encounter people who may not be as they outwardly appear.
We moved into our home in February 2018, located in the little town of Snohomish, WA. We painted walls and changed fixtures, like most folks do when they move into a new home. The town is really cute and I love the small-town feel, being from a small-town myself. Recently Snohomish has been in the news because of an incident with a fake, antifa social media post that had armed vigilantes descend on the historic part of the downtown. This incident surfaced some racist elements in the area, but it has also brought out anti-racist actions in the community as well. I’ve seen the younger folks in the community organize have Black Lives Matter Marches and demonstrations throughout town. This has created great educational opportunities for the community and brought about awareness of racism, that some have chosen to ignore. The recent City Council meetings have been both emotional and informative, as teachers, parents and students spoke about their experiences, which has made me hopeful that the younger generation (Gen-Z) wants and are actively seeking change. It’s been great to see them speak out against racism, especially in a town that is predominately White.
Getting back to my neighbor, I didn’t interact with him much, I would wave if I saw him drive by or say hello to him and his kids, when it was his week to have them. I kept my distance, but still was neighborly. My husband, on the other hand, would chat it up with him, as he did with other folks in the neighborhood. My husband felt it was his duty, as the newly elected treasurer on the community HOA board, to get to know the folks in the neighborhood. It’s a thankless job, being on the HOA board, as HOAs can bring their own drama, but you can have an instant community, that watches out for each other and values home ownership.
As time went on, we noticed that the police were consistently coming to our neighbor’s home. From arguments with his children’s mother, where they yelled and screamed at each other in the cul-de-sac, to a call from another neighbor to do a welfare check on his dogs. I felt justified in my initial instinct that the guy was bad news. I wanted to avoid interacting with him. I was surprised that a seemingly quiet neighborhood was having the police show up on a consistent basis at my neighbor’s home.
The crux of this story stems from my racist neighbor not paying his HOA dues. As HOA treasurer, my husband had to deal with this issue, sending out reminders of unpaid dues in the neighborhood. In spite of the neighbor’s non-compliance, my husband continued to be neighborly. Racist neighbor seemed to be violating every HOA covenant, along with refusing to pay dues. Eventually the HOA, via advice from their attorney, sent him a letter in early April 2019 demanding that he pay his dues. This letter seemed to be the trigger that broke the neighbor’s “friendly” façade and he let his racist true self free.
April 23, 2019, was the day that the racist neighbor decided to yell at my husband, calling him an “asshole.” This spawned from an incident three days earlier, on April 20th, when racist neighbor decided to yell outside his pickup truck at my husband and daughter, who were playing volleyball in the front yard. He told my husband to “Remove that shit from his yard.” At first my husband didn’t know what he was talking about, then he realized it was the left-over bark that we had placed in between our property lines, where some of it was on the neighbor’s side. Trying to be neighborly, and help make our yards look better last spring, we cleaned up planter beds and put some bark down that we had left over down between our property lines. Racist neighbor, I believe just wanted to start something with my family and this was the perfect catalyst.
On the 23rd, it was late evening around 9 PM and my husband was coming from grabbing a few items at the grocery store nearby. As my husband was taking items out, racist neighbor was watching from his driveway. My husband decided to start to video record on his cell phone just in case the neighbor said or tried to do anything. Racist neighbor came over to our driveway, called my husband an asshole, over and over again, yelling at the top of his lungs, “You’re an asshole!” My husband tried to reason with him, but there was no reasoning with the racist neighbor. My daughter yelled for me to come outside, as I washed dishes and was cleaning up the kitchen from dinner. I went outside to see what was going on and saw racist neighbor in our driveway, in my husband’s face, calling him an asshole. I told the neighbor to get off the f**k off our property and told my husband to get away from him. I ran over to my husband to grab him, pulling him towards our home. I smelled the alcohol coming off the racist neighbor; I knew there was no reasoning with an intoxicated, belligerent person.
I could tell my husband’s temper was getting up there, as he told racist neighbor to “Get the f*k off our property.” I then told the racist neighbor to get away from our driveway and he said, “I don’t talk to your kind.” From my experiences, I knew what he meant when he said, “your kind” and decided this situation was not going to deescalate and called the police. The police came in less than 3 minutes, took statements from both my husband and I, along with racist neighbor. Racist neighbor told the police that “We’ve been trouble since we moved in.” I laughed out loud at that and reminded my husband that my intuition told me he was trouble and look at him projecting. After the officers took a statement from racist neighbor, we talked for a bit with the officers, as they gave us their business cards. I asked one of the officers about racist neighbor saying that he doesn’t “deal with my kind.” The officer stated that it was “free speech” and racist neighbor could say “whatever he wanted.” However, before they both left, the other officer told us that he would “highly recommended” that we get an anti-harassment order, with the emphasis on “highly.” I knew racist neighbor was trouble, but I was hoping that he would just mind his own business and leave “my kind” alone.
A few days go by, with some passive aggressive and intimidation interactions, like him revving his engine in the street in front of our house and driving by slowly if we were outside, total bullying and intimidation tactics. Our plan was to just ignore him, but guys like him hate being ignored. I decided to do a public records search. Not surprisingly, abuse and harassment are something that my racist neighbor has consistently been involved in and I knew that this guy was just getting started.
The next incident on May 9, 2019 is what prompted us to finally pursue an anti-harassment order. After work, my husband was getting out of his car in the driveway, racist neighbor called him a “n**ger lover” out of the blue. My husband responded by asking him why he was being a jerk and to just leave our family alone. Our racist neighbor seemed to thrive on the bullying and intimidation. When I came outside, after hearing the yelling in the front yard, racist neighbor said “Hey, there’s the n**ger” and continued to call me a n**ger over and over again, in front of my daughter who recorded it all on her cell phone.
Being from the country, I’m not one to back down from a fight. I told him if he was such a bad-ass, to come on over to our property and call me a n**ger to my face, instead of behind the trees next to his driveway. We had enough with this guy. The next incident during the same week, racist neighbor followed my husband’s car, while driving his ex’s car, when my husband left to attend a HOA board meeting. I knew we had to file an anti-harassment order, with hope that he would come to his senses and leave us alone.
The anti-harassment order process was a feat in itself. From May-June 2019, we had to hire three process servers to get him served. We continued going to court, seeking to continue our case, while trying to get him served. We finally found a process server who was successful in getting service, which racist neighbor had attempted to avoid. We went to court on June 24, 2019 and explained the situation to the judge. Racist neighbor never showed up to respond. The court granted our anti-harassment order that day and it was good for a year.
For the whole year, racist neighbor would mind his business. However, every now and then he would act like he wanted to say something to one of us, but would catch himself and go into his house or get in his truck. With no new documented incidents or calls to the police, we didn’t have evidence to extend the anti-harassment order. Based on other incidents, it seemed that law enforcement would likely not be able to do anything. Ultimately, we would be on our own to try and live peacefully with the racist next door.
Just recently, in May 2020, the mother of his kids called the police on him again. Three police cars and about 5 officers arrived at his house. When we saw the police pull up in the cul-de-sac, my husband and I were like “What did he do now?” We stood on our porch and listened to racist neighbor call the officers “a**holes,” “jerks” and “to get the f*** off his property.” It was fascinating to watch and listen to this all go down next door, for at least 10–15 minutes. Racist neighbor’s kids were outside, along with his ex. He continued to call the officers names, as they tried to talk to him calmly. One of the officers even asked him why he was “acting like a child.” That comment set off the racist neighbor as he continued his tirade. In the end, the officers just bid him a good night and left him to yell at them as they walked back to their cars.
Since our anti-harassment has order ended, racist neighbor has started up his bullying and intimidation — especially the slow drive-by, with engine revving when we are outside. He has also tried to engage us to respond to his behavior by trying to talk to us, especially my husband, when we are outside, but we are not taking the bait. I realized that as long as racist neighbor remains next door, we will have problems with him. Just know, the racist neighbor is not running me from my home, from my neighborhood. He has picked the wrong family to continue to intimidate and harass. It may be my country-holler upbringing, but no one is going to make me feel like I don’t belong or harass me out of my home. I’m a member of this community, pay my taxes, HOA dues, and mortgage and deserve to be here just like everyone else. I’m not going anywhere.