An Open Letter to the Neighbor Who Filed a Complaint against my Black Lives Matter Sign

Dear Neighbor,

I don’t know who you are, but you surely know me. We’re a pretty conspicuous family: two dads—one white and one Asian—and two young kids—one black and one Latino—who live right up the street from Thoreau Elementary. Maybe you’ve seen me reading on the porch while my kids play soccer in the front yard and maybe I’ve even said good morning to you as you walked by. I can’t be sure though, since I don’t know who you are.

Black Lives MatterTwo weeks ago, we put up a Black Lives Matter sign. Our eight-year-old black daughter was so excited. Our white neighbors across the street put one up too, and I think that meant a lot to our daughter. I know it meant a lot to me. So when we came home last week to find a letter jammed in our doorknob from the town Building Commissioner stating that an anonymous complaint had been submitted through an attorney against the display of our sign, I was disheartened.

After talking with the Building Commissioner and the Town Manager’s office, I understand the ways in which the posting of our sign technically violated zoning bylaws. And as I drive around town now, I can’t help but notice the other signs that are also clearly out of compliance: signs touting an open house at one of the expensive private schools in our town or the latest incentives to go solar. I wonder if those signs are prompting you to call your attorney and file another anonymous complaint.

I wish I could talk to you face-to-face. I wish I could tell you why this sign means so much to my family. I wish I could tell you the ways our children, currently in second and third grade, have been the victims of both implicit and explicit racism in our town. I wish I could tell you the ways that I faced discrimination in my position as a teacher at the high school. I wish I could tell you that although more often than not the people we encounter in this town—the teachers, the town officials, the shopkeepers, the families—go out of their way to show our family we are welcome here, this rarely takes the sting out of the experiences that consistently remind us that we have to work harder than most to achieve a sense of normalcy we thought would be commonplace in the suburbs.

And that’s part of why we put the sign up. Certainly, we wanted to draw attention and show support for the black people being killed in our country at alarming rates, but we also wanted to prove to our children—and by extension our neighbors, including you—that equality is something that matters to us. It’s not enough to just expect equality, and sometimes it’s not even enough just to work for it. We need to demand it.

I wonder if you understand what we mean by equality. We explain it to our kids as everyone getting what they need, not everyone necessarily getting the same thing. Surely you’re aware of the insanely high statistics for black deaths in this country, especially in relation to their white counterparts. Surely you’ve heard about the high profiles cases: Freddie Gray’s fractured spine, Michael Brown’s lifeless body left in the street for four hours, the tragic shooting of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, and so many others.

When you see my son is bouncing a basketball in the driveway, do you see a younger version of these boys and young men? He has a head full of kinky hair and he likes to wear baggy basketball pants and sweatshirts with hoods. In a few years, he’ll look a lot like Trayvon Martin when he walks up the street at dusk to get a bag of Skittles at the 7-11 up the street. When my daughter was running through the sprinkler in her swimsuit this summer, did you see someone that might grow into the 14-year-old black girl that an overzealous police officer threw to the ground before drawing his gun last June in McKinney, Texas? These are the things we think about when we proclaim that black lives matter in the form of our simple lawn sign.

We’re not taking our sign down, although we will certainly make sure we strictly follow the town zoning bylaws from now on. And as a result of your complaint, I suspect you’ll see a few more signs around the neighborhood. I’m assuming you’ll still be able to pick out our house amidst the dozen or so Black Lives Matter slogans out there. We’ll be here if you ever want to talk.


368 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Neighbor Who Filed a Complaint against my Black Lives Matter Sign

  1. Im so sorry for what your family had to go through I dont understand racism honestly we All bleed the same color we have real enemies out there trying to hurt US why do we focus on trying to create war in our world why not focus on our enemies and not a sign that someone found offensive we as a nation need to redirect our energy towards others threatening our Great Nation

  2. If hundreds of dogs were being slaughtered in the streets, no one would take the position that a movement touting the phrase “Dogs’ Lives Matter” as an affront to humans. No one would be arguing that the phrase suggested humans had no value, or that it implied that only dogs mattered.
    Anyone who acts as though they don’t understand the meaning of Black Lives Matter is merely acting; what they reject is precisely what is being said: The notion that black lives matter. In short, only racists take issue with it.

  3. Defend your 1st Amendment Rights. Even if you have to get a lawyer to sue the bureaucrats. I assure you that this “anonymous” person is a racist coward. You have the right to be political. You didnot endanger the Public welfare, cause a lost of life. You have the right to support a cause just like that “anonymous person” does does

    • Good morning. I just wanted to tell you our Black Lives Matter sign finally arrived and we like so many in Concord stand with you and your lovely family. I see the good work you are doing with your blog to educate and help open hearts. Thank you for it all! Marcia


  4. By making a ” black” lives matter you are not helping the racial divide that already exist it should be ” all lives matter ” something more can agree on instead of disagree on

    • The wrong doers whose crimes resulted, over time, in the creation of Black Lives Matter and the vast majority of the people who they respect, and the racial majority whose lives are respected by the wrong doers, do not need Black Lives Matter to argue any case for them. They do have a case that needs venting, however, and this is it: Black Lives Matter is gaining traction among many Americans who happen to be level headed.

      • Those on the side of Jim Crowe feel threatened by Black Lives Matter and seem to think that their position of privilege and decadence is under siege. Black Lives Matter do not need to reach out to such persons or to get them on board. There are enough level headed people in America to provide BLM with the understanding and support they need.

    • When did “all lives matter?” The saying is a counter-offshoot from the “black lives matter” theme, because it defuses from the original “cause.” The life and breath of the Negro (Black person) has never been equal in the most racist Nation on earth. This is written into the Constitution–what a Black/ Negro individual’s life is worth in Society, by the Nation’s founders, and politics is involved in all of this. The racial divide existed during the time of the 13 Colonies, and continues to this day. Even though the 14th Amendment give citizenship to the Negro, and there are clauses in that same “hi-jacked” Amendment, which all other Nationalities, who come here illegally, use the Law to stay in the Country by having children, therefore supplying an anchor. Donald Trump was called racist for making mention of this old fact in the Media that twists everything. #2 The laws of the Jim Crow Era were put in place to ensure that Blacks do not have “any equal standing to Whites” in all levels of Society, and the Laws are still in effect, and sustained by the U.S. Institutions. There are past enacted laws by Congress in dealing with the Indians, who are now referred to as Native Americans. Blacks throughout history have been shortchanged economically, socially, and culturally. From a “legal standpoint” it is the worse, in a area where the greatest injustices continue to be instituted against Black Americans. You have White racist police officers, who continue to kill unarmed Blacks with impunity, and they get away with it 99% of the time though a Court System that is just as racist. Jim Crow never died–it just evolved with its oppression. There is still “racial profiling” by the police as well as the mass incarceration of Blacks, which started with Bill Clinton (Democrat), in which most of a generation was locked away, and now it is being revealed that a lot of Blackmen were locked up for crimes they were never guilty of. The average man has spent 30 years in a cage. This is years of “freedom”, and productivity that cannot be replaced, reversed, and years that cannot be compensated. American History in the schools teaches a watered-down, “politically correct” history that dispenses away with “real history”, and the true ugliness of this Nation’s past. A Nation who has yet to give compensation–through restitution. “Black Lives Matter” was born from the need to say that “black lives are equal in American Society.” That is the continued cry in this Nation, by the younger generation, who are now realizing that they are not treated with any respect, and that they are not treated with “equality” in a racial “institutionalized system” that ensures that most Blacks remain impoverished. This is generational oppressive system that was set up by design, and whose language I am still researching here and there. The dream of equality continues to elude those “born of blackness”, whose character is constantly assaulted by the propaganda of the Media in a degrading fashion, until destruction is achieved. The Media helps and sustains the “racial divide” as you call it, though fear and hatred of the “blackness of a human-being”–their outer appearance, before that human-being begins to grasp the realization that what they look like is a problem in Society, and in life. They have to live with the knowledge that they were born of the “wrong shade of skin color”, and opportunities to succeed in life will be restricted, because of this difference. All of this is a “generational thing.” This is something that cannot become part of the past, until the foundations of “Jim Crow” are broken asunder in permanent fashion. This can only happen through a series of reformations through Congress, and enforced; and a Supreme Court that would have to strike down every past law, and case that sustained the institutionalized system of racism and oppression, and the Media has to change its definition on how “blackness” of a human-being is perceived in the Public. The darkness of a person’s skin color should not define whether a person’s character is “good or evil”, or “superior or inferior”, or the value of the individual’s life. However–since “politics” rules the day, and what is “politically correct” at the time, always takes the stage. The opponents of the “black lives matter” movement will always invent counter propaganda to distort the movement’s original message, and derail it during this presidential race.

  5. Pingback: An Open Letter to the Neighbor Who Filed a Complaint against my Black Lives Matter Sign | tpmcocreator

  6. Pingback: An Open Letter to the Neighbor Who Filed a Complaint against my Black Lives Matter Sign | LIVE WITH LEGACY

  7. Reblogged this on dkstevens327 and commented:
    This is a wonderful letter from a member of a beautiful family. Two dads (one white, one Asian), their Latino son and Black daughter, had an anonymous complaint filed against them by a cowardly neighbor because they posted a “Black Lives Matter” sign. Instead of responding with anger at the neighbor, this father / teacher / husband wrote an open letter explaining why the sign matters — to him, his family, and the world.

  8. Thank you for this powerful letter. I know your kids adore you! Always remember (as I’m sure you two do)to teach them their heritage and history and share yours with them as well. Oppression is oppression and they will continue learning from your light. They will love their Blackness and Afro-Latinidad! I can relate to their experiences in some ways so I truly am grateful for this letter and I wish you and your family much success. Happy Kwanzaa & Happy New Year!

  9. Bravo!!! I sincerely hope more people could be as concerned and brave to point out all the reasons why atrocities are intolerable. “People ” is the key word I wish to point out- as black lives matter, all life is precious, regardless of color, race, ethnicity or other DNA signifiers. It’s too bad some ‘people’ rarely see past the surface to get to know their neighbors instead of passing judgment, spreading false information, instigating problems or worse: not considering anyone or anything but their own ignorant self. I wish you all continued strength in going past the biases and ignorance, while remaining a tight and loving family unit. Blessings from the light of good & hope to us all.

  10. Unfortunately, these comments demonstrate what I’ve often espoused: In America, dissent is no longer tolerated. “Those who dissent MUST be racist, otherwise they would agree with me.” I suggest we read, re-read and then discuss the importance of the First Amendment. Not every disagreement has to be a fight, or the result of bigotry/racism.

  11. I absolutely applaud you for taking this stand. I’m so tired of hearing how the media manipulated this or that…our society has gotten to the place that if we don’t want to believe something then we just shout “media manipulation” and then we no longer have to acknowledge the truth!! The truth comes out strong to me when I see an unarmed black man laying on the street with his arms raised above his head , shouting “Yes Sir” to the cops while all he was trying to do was hep his autistic patient – and he gets shot anyway!!! Or a black man walking to his broken down vehicle and he doesn’t comply to be humiliated and get down on his face because he is NOT armed – and the cops shoot him dead…so many stories of injustice due to color of skin that don’t happen to white people because of white privilege and just so sad! I applaud you and your family! Stay strong and I hope you get a lot of support in your neighborhood and community!!!!

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