Challenging White Supremacy Is Freedom Of Speech

What racism looks like. 

I recently moved to Cranford Avenue, which is a few streets past downtown Lakewood and a few streets toward the Rocky River Loop. I moved there before November, and there were political signs a-plenty regarding the upcoming local election. A friend who has lived in Lakewood for a while said that come election season, Lakewood is known for having yard signs in the same way Parma, Ohio is known for pink flamingos. Lakewood is a political town with a politically-conscious community, which isn't bad and very reassuring. One of the first signs I noticed was a sign not too far from my apartment reading "Black Lives Matter" and a reference to a website for Showing Up For Racial Justice. 

After the attacks in Paris, I was walking to the bus stop for work and noticed the sign vandalized with a taped up sign reading, "What about Paris?! ALL LIVES MATTER." I immediately shared what I saw on Facebook with a status that, being a Black Lives Matter activist myself, was this: "#blacklivesmatter is to stress the racist hierarchy, not enforce it." I later found out from a friend who attends Showing Up For Racial Justice meetings that the taped sign was taken down, and the sign is still there. 

Well, having since joined up with Showing Up For Racial Justice, which is an advocacy group for anti-racist white allies who want to contribute to Black Lives Matter and who do not want to dominate discussion and give activists of color their respective space and respect their right to cue allies on how best to help support their voices being heard, I see on social media that the sign in my neighbor's lawn was vandalized again, this time with a red-spray painted "ALL" to cover the "BLACK." 

Cranford Avenue is like any other street in Lakewood. People have political opinions and they don't mind expressing them let alone letting people consider them as they drive up towards Clifton Avenue or down towards Detroit Avenue, and every other street in between. Where I live closer to Clifton, we have two yards with signs still in support for Save Lakewood Hospital. There is a house with a P.O.W./M.I.A flag. There is a duplex with the Irish flag displayed proudly, and very close to Clifton, there is a sign with a swastika, which though not considered much with the Buddhist sign for peace and tranquility, but the corrupted version meaning white supremacy, which probably reflects on my neighbors' political opinions on race. A political opinion on race that is protected under the First Amendment of free speech. 

Now, there doesn't seem to be vandalism done to any one of my neighbors' lawns and what they choose to display on them. It must take a very controversial opinion to be expressed for someone to constantly cover the Black in Black Lives Matter as they have done. My neighbor has a right to express her political opinion on race as much as my neighbor with the swastika, but apparently, my neighbor with the swastika is more acceptable than the opinion on race that challenges white supremacy, and to me, that is just sad. My neighbor also has First Amendment rights to display for people to consider traveling up or traveling down my street. It takes a concentrated effort and audacity to violate my neighbor's right to her own privacy and freedom of expression to walk on her lawn at some unconscionable hour just to stress a dependency on white supremacy and a trust that a hierarchy is working for them to constantly devalue black lives by devaluing a supporter's yard sign. Lakewood has a diverse population at that, and my street is diverse, but white supremacy is no excuse for vandalism. My neighbor has every right to put to task whoever is doing this to her lawn, as I have a right to post my own Black Lives Matter yard sign in my lawn as well. 

All my neighbor is doing is practicing her right to free speech. I guess where the disregard of that right comes into play being a white ally to Black Lives Matter, is when there are insecure white people on our street who may tell people they aren't racist, but have no problem literally erasing black people from a phrase stating that they matter, because they do. Challenging white supremacy is freedom of speech, and I would rather have a block discussion night about race touching on this matter than continue to see my neighbor's lawn vandalized because of an opinion that isn't commonly valued but needs to be more. Anti-racist speech deserves equal protection. 

Tim Collingwood is a Lakewood resident of the past year, who writes blogs for Tumblr, and has written blogs for TCM, and is/was the Akron Classic Movie Examiner. He would like to write about issues pertaining to social justice and how they are affecting the Lakewood community. He believes in the power of citizen journalism, and as a reader of Lakewood Observer, likes that he gets it.

Tim Collingwood

I am a Lakewood resident of the past year, who writes blogs for Tumblr, and have written blogs for TCM, and am/was the Akron Classic Movie Examiner. I would like to write about issues pertaining to social justice issues and how they are affecting the Lakewood community. I believe in the power of citizen journalism, and as a reader of Lakewood Observer, I like that I get it.

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Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 1:37 PM, 02.16.2016