A week ago today, the Norman community was shaken by three heinous acts of racist and anti-Semitic vandalism.
Just a few hours after images of graffiti at McKinley Elementary School, the Firehouse Art Center and the Cleveland County Democratic Party headquarters were shared on social media, much of the vile vandalism already had been washed away by eager volunteers.
Later that evening, Normanites of all walks filled Lions Park to denounce the messages and rally together.
It was a somber yet inspiring gathering, one that saw an act of division transformed into a unifying force.
But while the Strike Back with Love rally was a fortifying repudiation of hate and racism, it was not a decisive victory.
This was not Norman’s first test, nor will it be its last.
As we move forward, we should consciously carry the lessons of the last week with us, so that we may continue the healing and progress that began with power washers and sponges on Wednesday morning. We should all look for ways to thwart racism and bigotry wherever we see it, not just through speeches or social media, but through action, by being intentional and thoughtful, by reaching out to marginalized people and proactively promoting diversity, educating, learning and listening.
We applaud the community’s response and all the volunteers who leapt into action, as well as the cooperative efforts of the Norman Police Department, Oklahoma City Police Department and FBI, which resulted in a swift arrest.
We also applaud the city council for its response during Tuesday’s meeting, where it again denounced the acts, called for ally training and encouraged city staff to explore options to bring about stronger hate crime ordinances.
Those are positive steps, but we have to keep moving. All of us.
Step outside of your comfort zone and step up when you see instances of racism. Know that it won’t always be as a boldly bigoted as a crudely spray-painted swastika.
Lastly, we should all remember to focus on what matters and examine our perspective.
In the immediate aftermath, some looked, not to those that were hurt or how they could help, but to confirm that the suspect at the center of this mess was on the other side of the political spectrum.
Regardless of the perpetrator’s politics, it’s more meaningful to focus on how we communicate and respond to the people who were most affected, to show them that they are valued and cared for, and what we do as a community to show that we won’t stand for this.
The assertion that this was a “fake hate crime” is baffling, because, well, it did happen. It is a hate crime, and, whatever the motivation, the impact certainly wasn’t fake.
Our response shouldn’t be either.
If we want to build an inclusive community, we have to keep working. Graffiti can be wiped away, but we shouldn’t let our conviction and vigilance be wiped away with it.