This contributing columnist is a civil rights activist, public relations professional and former Detroit News reporter. He is co-founder and past president of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods NAACP Branch.
For a brief moment Tuesday, a KKK flag was raised in Grosse Pointe Park.
It didn’t blow from a flagpole on a lawn in the winter breeze. It wasn’t nailed to the front door. It wasn’t put out for display to the world.
It was placed in a large side window where only one neighbor could see it — the Black one next door, JeDonna Matthews Dinges.
Dinges is a good neighbor. For the last 10 years, she says she has loved living in the Pointes. She raised her daughter here, started a successful business here and enjoyed her neighbors.
This disturbed her. This upset her. This made her angry.
She thought about calling the police but didn’t believe they'd do anything. They would come. Take notes. Downplay the seriousness of the situation and leave.
That, she says, has been her experience when it comes to issues involving race.
What she did do was call her friends and neighbors. They told her to call the state attorney general’s office. So, she says she called the Detroit field office and was told there was nothing they could do because the flag was on private property inside someone’s home. True, but it was a symbol of hate laid bare and aimed at her.
Taking matters into her hands
She called friends and neighbors again. They said put the picture on social media and call the media.
So, she did. Around 4 p.m. Dinges says two detectives from public safety knocked on her door.
They came. They took notes. They told her they talked to her neighbors who, she says, told them they put the KKK flag up because she had a camera facing their window. Dinges says she has a Google Net Camera on her window sill aimed at the sidewalk between the houses to catch would-be criminals sulking between the houses.
This was after she called police recently about a full can of gasoline she found in her trash receptacle sitting like a firebomb waiting to explode next to her house. She says she called the cops about that.
They came. They took notes. And she says they told her they couldn’t take fingerprints or basically do much to investigate. So that’s why she put the camera up — to catch on film whomever may come back and try again so she would have evidence for the police.
So, this is all just a misunderstanding between neighbors. One put a security camera up between the houses. The other put up a KKK flag to protect their privacy.
Deadline Detroit knocked on the door of neighbor with the flag to interview someone about the situation, heard voices, saw the front shades move but got no answer.
Deadline Detroit also called the department to ask about the flag and if there had been any reports or complaints filed, but were told by the desk that there was nothing. Call back tomorrow when the chief is around.
'Not welcome here'
We were able to reach several Grosse Pointe Park council members about the flag. Councilman Vikas Relan, the first Indian man elected in the Pointes, says “I’m disgusted” and notes that “white supremacy is deep in our society.” Councilwoman Michelle Hodges says “there’s no room for hate in our community. None whatsoever. We have to be better than that. Much better than that.”
Similar outrage was expressed by Darci McConnell, the council’s first African-American: “I hope and pray that the resident who draped their home so brazenly in intolerance will see such venom is not welcome here.” When asked about Dinges' reluctance to call the local cops, McConnell responded just as strongly.
“Any time a resident feels that they can’t call the police – particularly regarding what at least appears to be a clear attempt at ethnic intimidation, that’s extremely disturbing and it also shows there’s more work to be done."
She said she spoke to public safety and looks forward to seeing what remedies are put in place.
Councilwoman McConnell is not alone. Social media blew up with responses from neighbors offering the Dinges’ help, comfort and consoling. Dinges says her family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support and that it affirms her belief that there are more people of goodwill in the Park than not.
The KKK flag display has been taken down. It's gone for now. Let’s hope the racist sentiment doesn't rear its ugly head in our community in other ways.