When a neighbour came to Heather Mitchell’s door on Sunday morning, she wasn’t really sure what was going on. They insisted she take a look at the hood of a family car, which sat in the driveway facing the street, where a small crowd was starting to form.
Mitchell was “shocked” and “horrified” to discover a racist and violent message had been written in large, black letters. It said 'Kill (N-word).'
“I was stunned. I just looked at it for a few minutes before I could start consciously thinking about it,” she said. “I think it was more flooded with thoughts – is this for us, who knows that Austin is here, who would do this, who feels this way about our family?”
Austin, Mitchell’s husband, was born in Iran and they have a seven-year-old daughter together.
What seemed particularly worrisome in Mitchell’s mind was that it’s unusual for Austin to be at their Exhibition Park-area home – he spends much of his time in Boston where he works.
Theirs was not an isolated incident. Nearby the same night, someone also left racist graffiti on the rear bumper of another white car in the neighbourhood.
That car belongs to Andrew Barker, who has spent the past five years fixing it up, including a new paint job. He also learned of the graffiti from a neighbour, though he wasn’t home so the information came via text shortly before noon on Sunday.
Then he learned what the graffiti said.
“That is infinitely worse in every way,” he said, explaining he was initially disappointed to learn his hard work had been vandalized. “People think like that still?”
Barker has no idea why his vehicle would be targeted for racist graffiti, though he wonders if the perpetrator's intent was to leave the most hurtful message possible.
“Hopefully that’s what it was because that would be better than if they actually think like that,” he said.
In a news release, police described the graffiti as being spray painted, but both Mitchell and Barker believe it was written with a black Sharpie marker and somewhat smudged by the overnight rain.
A quick wash removed the graffiti in both cases.
“We were really flooded with support,” Mitchell said, noting she posted a photo on nextdoor.com. “News spread quickly through the neighbourhood too, even people who weren’t online.”
For Mitchell, the most difficult part of it all was having to her daughter what happened.
“That was a pretty intense conversation,” she said. “I took her outside and showed her the writing and she said, ‘That’s just not very nice.’
Mitchell anticipates her daughter will want to talk more about it down the line, as she’s likely still processing it too.Anyone with information about the graffiti is asked to call Const. Chris Bush at 519-824-1212 ext. 7148 or email him at email@example.com. Details can also be left anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.csgw.tips.