So, I decided a while ago that I wanted to try something, and today I got around to doing it.
I’ve been trying to share the perspectives and wisdom of others that I have encountered via social media, regarding primarily police brutality, its role in white supremacist capitalism, the history of white supremacist imperialist patriarchy. Aside from social media and conversations with my mom, there isn’t much opportunity to engage in discussion about social justice issues. These aren’t small-talk topics around most white middle-classians – actually, they’re strictly no-discuss topics. And since I’ve been spending most of my summer in my house, it’s not as though I’ve been talking to much of anyone anyway. But I felt like connecting or reaching out to my immediate community in some way, finding a way to wake some people out of their comfort bubble or maybe let them know that someone close to home cares about oppression and wants others to care as well.
I came up with the idea of putting flyers on stop signs. Well, not flyers, I guess, just pieces of paper turned landscape style. The papers – in regular stop sign font, white text and all red background (and much smaller than the stop sign itself) would be PSAs of sorts, each using a few words to encourage viewers to challenge societal problems. When positioned under the stop sign, they would produce a complete phrase, for example :
“Stop condoning police brutality”
I made up around 20 of these signs, and set out this afternoon to put them on stop signs around my neighborhood. I didn’t intend to identify myself with them. I didn’t think I would have any way of knowing people’s reactions to them, because there are so many people in my neighborhood with whom I have no regular contact or have never met. But I knew the signs would be seen, and to think that a few people would see them and feel encouraged or say “yeah! That’s right” or that a few would would stop (literally, as per the law) and think about what I wrote – that would be something. Maybe a few conversations would be had. I expected many of them would be ignorant, frustrated conversations. But at least the people who wanted nothing to do with challenging racism, sexism, all other host of -isms would see those signs and know that one of their neighbors gives a shit. Maybe. I don’t know what goes on in most people’s heads most of the time.
So I walked around for about 30 minutes putting up my signs. I only put up about 10 of them, as I only passed about that many stop signs on my loop. Here are pictures of some of them:
I had noticed that right after I put up “condoning police brutality” below the stop sign at one of the exits of our neighborhood, a cop car drove out of the neighborhood in that direction. I’m guessing they saw it.)
So, Howdy-doo, while I was turning onto a street to head back to my house, the Sheriff rolled in. Right up to where I was. I knew why.
He said someone had “called him in” saying they thought someone was putting up “anti-police” stuff and, according to him “people kind of like us out here”.
Im thinking yeah, I know. This is a primarily white middle-class neighborhood.
But most of the signs didn’t mention police anyway, so I told him, they were really to raise awareness of social issues. I told him I hadn’t thought it would be a problem because people put signs on the stop sign poles all the time. Neighborhood events. Babysitter needed. Lost dog. Etc.
He said yeah, technically your not supposed to, but for stuff like that people mostly just look the other way. He was only here because someone had called about my signs specifically.
So, one of two things happened:
– The cop who I originally saw leaving the neighborhood was put off by what he saw and decided to tell the sheriff to come over and just say someone in the neighborhood had called him.
Or – Someone in the neighborhood actually had called him, and that someone was an ignorant asshole who decided a message to “stop condoning police brutality” was worthy of complaining to white suburban police about. Plus, if they did see any of my other signs, they chose that one to complain about specifically for obvious reasons. Most of the signs didn’t say anything about police. But they probably hated all of them. “Stop ignoring racism? Fuck you. I don’t see color. I earned everything I have. You’re the racist!”
Go ahead, post it up!
Dying Black people?
Get that shit out of my face.
I mean, I expected that to be a lot of people’s response. I’m sure it would have been, for a lot more, if the signs stayed up longer than 20 minutes. (I went around and took them down, since the sheriff said the only other option was putting them on lamp posts since they’re “not state-owned”. Without the word “stop” above them, the signs would make no fucking sense.) A few more minutes and I could have gotten home and nobody probably would have been able to identify me as the one who put up the signs. But the sheriff got my name. My thinking was – eh, I can afford a fine. But if this neighborhood is really so closed off to thought that some messages on a stop sign make the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up – (even if the person who told the sheriff to swing by was another cop, I fully believe that most people in my neighborhood are very friendly with the cops, based on the neighborhood group posts on Facebook) – maybe it just wouldn’t be worth it. So I took them down. Had to make the whole loop again. It was sweaty.
So, yeah, there you have it.
Possibly another instance of cops being dishonest assholes,
Possibly another instance of suburban white people plugging their ears and screaming.