My husband and I have been proud homeowners in Skaneateles for 11 years. We have made many friendships there, friendships we value greatly. We have fond memories of swimming at the lake with our daughters, walking into town for ice cream with neighbors, listening to live music with others in the park.
And so, it was with horror that I received a text on Sunday, June 14. The text held an image of our front porch. There sat a small group of young men, relaxed and smiling. Four flags festooned our porch: one was the American flag; another read "Don’t Tread on Me"; yet another "Donald Trump for President"; and the final bore an American flag with the Roman numeral III in the middle, the flag of the group known as the “Three Percenters,” an anti-government militia group with white supremacist allegiances that has been linked to hate crimes around the country over the past decade.
You see, I received this image from afar because my husband and I are boarding school teachers. Though we have long owned our home in Skaneateles, our full-time residence is elsewhere. We return happily to central New York when on school breaks. It is the place that our daughters proudly call “home.”
It was with sadness and helplessness that I received the text with the picture of our home today. The men in that image were not engaging in civil discourse or political expression. They were trampling on the respectful, neighborly values that we treasure about central New York. They meant to mock or intimidate those members of the community who that day demonstrated peaceful solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. They used our front porch to brandish (barely) codified messages of white supremacy, subjugation and violence.
As I sit here writing — after receiving the text from a concerned friend, after asking the current occupants to remove the flags from our home — I still shake with feelings of helplessness and anger. And my feelings don’t even come close to what many Americans feel every day when forced to confront such symbols of hatred and bigotry. Central New York is a place where people may harbor differing political opinions. It is no place for racism, thinly veiled or otherwise. To think that messages of that nature for even a short time decorated my front porch leaves me horrified.
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