On Neighbors, Bridges and Yard Signs

On Stories

Carol and Jeremy are neighbors living in Northern California. Both women were alarmed by the increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric and reports of hate violence throughout 2016. A friend of Carol’s- a woman of Indian descent who often wears a scarf on her head for sun protection due to a medical condition- came back from a hike to find her car had been vandalized and a nasty anti-Muslim note left on it. This, along with other incidents and increasingly negative rhetoric, had both Carol and Jeremy thinking about how they could respond to the hate. We had the opportunity to talk with Carol and Jeremy this week about what prompted them to put up these signs, and the reactions they have gotten from neighbors and community members.

When walking in the neighborhood one day, Carol saw a sign in someone’s yard that said “We Stand with American Muslims.” She later went back to inquire about it, and learned that the sign had been produced by David Carlson, a professor in Indiana who is engaged in work locally and nationally to challenge anti-Muslim bigotry. Carol ordered a number of the signs, putting one in her own yard and giving them away to friends who were interested in doing the same.

Jeremy saw her neighbor Carol’s sign and decided to put one up in her yard as well. She noted that her husband was half Lebanese, the grandson of Lebanese Catholic immigrants to the United States, and his grandparents experienced a lot of bigotry for their Arab identity. She has heard stories from her daughter about Muslim classmates experiencing profiling and discrimination at airports and elsewhere during school trips, and the attacks on Khizr Khan after his speech at the Democratic National Convention this summer were the final straw: Jeremy felt compelled to take a public, visible step to show her support for American Muslims in an increasingly hostile environment. The yard sign was one part of this action for Jeremy.

Then the flowers started coming. Beyond some negative remarks from someone driving by one day, along with some negative commentary in an online neighborhood forum, the feedback from the surrounding community has been very positive. A number of bouquets of flowers have been left anonymously, as well as several notes of thanks, including the one pictured below.

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